Possible biological factors
- Cervical ectopy (women)
- Greater risk of infection at first exposure
- Limited access to services
- Nonconsensual sex
Biological and social factors also put sexually active, unmarried
young adults at high risk for STDs.
Female adolescents are at particularly high risk for STDs for
possible biological reasons. They often have a condition called
cervical ectopy, meaning the cells that line the inside of the
cervical canal extend onto the outer surface of the cervix.
These cells are more vulnerable to infections such as chlamydia
and gonorrhea. In addition, the risk of acquiring trichomoniasis,
chlamydia, herpes or HPV is considered to be greatest at first
exposure to the STD. Because first exposure often occurs during
adolescence, both male and female adolescents are particularly
Social factors increasing STD risks for adolescents include
limited access to STD services. Access can be limited by adolescents
embarassment, lack of independence or lack of money. Other factors
include inconvenient clinic hours or locations, lack of confidentiality,
unsympathetic clinic staff and legal restrictions.
Another social factor contributing to STD risk is adolescents
relative lack of power in relationships with adults. Some adolescents
experience nonconsensual sexual relationships with older, more
powerful partners, with whom they may feel unable to negotiate
safer sex practices.