Some family planning clients may be at high risk of getting an STI. A person’s risk of getting an STI, including HIV, depends on:

  • specific higher-risk behaviors (see the box below)
  • how common these infections are in the community.

Family planning providers can help their clients assess their risk of getting an STI if they know how common or prevalent these infections are locally. Limited access to good-quality health services results in more untreated infections, which increases spread in the community.

Understanding their own risk for HIV and other STIs helps people decide how to protect themselves and others. People are often the best judges of their own STI risk, especially when they are well informed about what behaviors and situations can increase or decrease the risk of infection (see the box below and Avoiding STIs).

Sexual Practices and Other Behaviors that Increase the Risk of Getting an STI, Including HIV 

Sexual practices and behaviors that increase the client’s risk of infection should be asked about respectfully during a private and confidential discussion: 

  • Any type of sexual practice (oral, vaginal, or anal) with a partner who has STI symptoms, or who has been diagnosed or treated for an STI in the past 6 months
  • Any type of sexual practice (oral, vaginal, or anal) with more than 1 partner without condoms in the past 6 months—the more partners, the greater the risk
  • Exposure to contaminated needles from injection drug use or other (such as occupational) exposure

Some groups (known as “key populations”) are at higher risk of HIV and other STIs, regardless of the prevalence in the general population. These include:

  • Adolescents
  • People who have sex for money, food, gifts, shelter, or favors
  • Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men
  • People who inject drugs
  • The sexual partners of these individuals.