STIs Among Young Adults on the Rise

getting it on / Dating apps like Tinder, Plenty of Fish and OkCupid may contribute to rising rates of STIs, because they facilitate sexual encounters. / Nuri Ducassi / TNS

getting it on / Dating apps like Tinder, Plenty of Fish and OkCupid may contribute to rising rates of STIs, because they facilitate sexual encounters. / Nuri Ducassi / TNS

By Meghan Kliewer

Promiscuous adolescents and young adults continue having unprotected sex even though they are most at risk for contracting sexually transmitted infections, research reveals.

“Teens and young adults may feel pressured by their partner or peers to not use protection, believe getting STIs is something that only happens to other people and the use of drugs or alcohol may inhibit their actions,” said Christina Duong, Santa Ana College health educator.

Rates of reported STI cases are on the rise among people aged 15 to 19 and the highest rates are among those aged 20 to 24, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention report released in 2014.

Dating apps, like Tinder and OkCupid, that encourage hookups may also be contributing to the rising rates of STIs, according to a Rhode Island Department of Health report.

Many Millennials live in a hookup culture, in which casual sex is more acceptable, and easier to access through dating apps.

“They’re good if you’re just looking for a hookup or casual relationship, but it’s better dating people you first meet in person,” said Sydney, a student who asked her last name be withheld.

Because the apps allow people to meet and hookup, and increase the number of sexual partners, this also increases the chance of engaging in sexual activity with someone that has an STI.

“I’m sure most guys on any dating app are looking for sex,” SAC student Jacob Barlett said.

The most common STI is chlamydia, with the number of cases of gonorrhea about one-sixth of that. Syphilis occurs at a much lower rate, according to the CDC report.

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection that generally has no symptoms and goes undetected if not tested.

Adolescents and young adults account for about 66 percent of all cases of chlamydia in the U.S., according to the report.

Reported cases of STIs are higher among women than men, but men make up 76 percent of those with HIV, according to the CDC. The presence of any STI increases the likelihood of contracting HIV in any person.


The report reveals California rates of infections rank high among other states, but it is also home to the nation’s largest population.

“Having sexual intercourse with a partner who is not wearing a latex condom significantly increases the risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection,” Duong said. “Vaginal and anal intercourse are the riskiest forms, but oral sex also increases the risk if a condom or dental dam is not used.”

It can take only a single sex act to contract an STI, Duong said.

Although about 90 percent of adolescents have received formal education about STIs and HIV, education has emphasized abstinence, and about 50 percent of students have not been taught about the use of condoms or birth control methods, according to the Guttmacher Institute’s 2012 report.

People may engage in unprotected sex because they are unsure where to get birth control or think that it costs too much, Duong said.

Students are able to get free condoms by enrolling in the Family PACT program, which is free to students who have paid the health fee, Duong said.

Other free services in the Family PACT program include birth control counseling, access to contraception and emergency contraception, and STI and HIV testing.

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