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At a time when more and more young people are becoming sexually active, the threat of HIV and other STIs hangs over every sexual decision. STIs are a major public health problem not only because they are among the most common causes of illness in the world, but also because of the potentially serious complications of untreated STIs and because of the relationship between STIs and increased HIV transmission. By far, the greatest burden of STIs is borne by women and adolescents.
The large proportion of infections is believed to occur in people younger than 25, with the highest rates usually observed in the 20-24 year age group followed by the 15-19 year age group. Adolescents may think they are too young or too sexually inexperienced to acquire STIs. They may also think they are not at risk, because they incorrectly believe that STIs only occur among people who are promiscuous or who engage in "bad" behaviours. Many young people have STIs and do not realize it. Ignorance is not bliss, however. Some STIs might not produce noticeable symptoms, but can be harmful if left untreated. The reason for a urge in incidence of STIs is that an increasing number of young people are becoming sexually active in their adolescent years. Many of them fail to use latex condoms consistently, if at all. Other risk factors involve sex with multiple partners; and substance abuse, which has been associated with an increased risk of STI.