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6 April 2009
Age difference a key factor in STD risk
by George Atkinson

The risk of contracting an STD from your partner is significantly affected by marijuana or alcohol use, age difference, and criminal record, University of Florida (UF) researchers say. Interestingly, they add that risky behaviors such as not using condoms or having sex with multiple partners does not put young adults at risk for contracting sexually transmitted diseases as much as the characteristics of their sexual partners.

"If you are choosing high-risk partners, you are much more likely to have an STD, even when we account for your condom-use patterns," said UF's Stephanie A. S. Staras, the lead author of the study. "The theory is simple: You need to have sex with someone who has an STD to get an STD."

The study, appearing in the April issue of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, found that among the subjects whose partners were categorized as high-risk, 50 percent were diagnosed with an STD. By comparison, about 40 percent of the young adults whose own behaviors were labeled as high-risk were diagnosed with an STD.

Stara pointed out that while doctors often ask patients about their own sexual behaviors, they rarely inquire about a person's partner's behaviors. For example, some subjects in the study reported very low-risk behaviors but were having sex with very high-risk partners.

"Partner selection is an area of STD prevention that could complement what we are already doing with promoting condom use, and could possibly really help people," Staras said. "If somehow we could convince individuals to incorporate this information in a meaningful way into their decision-making, then we could reduce STDs."

In the study, the researchers measured five specific characteristics to gauge how risky certain partners were. These characteristics included whether the partner has a problem with marijuana or alcohol, was at least five years older or younger, had been in jail, had sex with other people in the past year or had an STD in the past year.

Overall, the researchers found that young adults whose partners had five or more risk characteristics were three times more likely to have an STD than those whose partners had no more than two characteristics.

Of these characteristics, the most telling were if a partner already had an STD and if a couple had an age difference of more than five years. Subjects whose partners were five years older or younger than them were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with an STD than those whose partners were around the same age.

Middle-aged folks neglecting safe sex
Alcohol, Drugs And Age Pivotal To HIV Risk
Condom Usage Not Telling Whole Story On HIV Risk

Source: University of Florida

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