The Human Body

Sexual Risks

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There are a number of pressing sexually related public health and social policy issues facing countries around the world today. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States a teen becomes pregnant every 30 seconds, and every 13 seconds a teen contracts a sexually transmitted disease (STD). For most people in the United States, engaging in heterosexual intercourse without the use of a condom is the behavior that puts them at greatest risk for infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and is often ultimately fatal. Although there is currently no cure for AIDS, there are medications that can help delay the onset of symptoms. Another serious sexually transmitted disease is syphilis, which if left untreated for many years, can lead to paralysis, psychiatric illness, and death. Gonorrhea and chlamydia may produce no obvious symptoms in a woman, but they can lead to sterility if she is not treated. STDs should be diagnosed and treated by qualified medical practitioners, and all sexual partners must be treated in order to avoid reinfection.

Individuals can reduce their exposure to such sexual risks by practicing abstinence, using appropriate methods of contraception to avoid unwanted pregnancies, and using of safer sex practices. Such practices include using condoms to avoid exchanging bodily fluids, limiting the number of sexual partners, and restricting sexual behaviors to those with less risk, such as manual stimulation and massage.