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Among sexually experienced people, adolescents aged 15 to 19 years have some of the highest reported rates of STDs.
In addition, particular groups of adolescents (eg, males who have sex with males, injection drug users, and teens who have sex for drugs) engage in even greater risk-taking behavior.
Among adolescents aged 13-21, older adolescents, males, and members of racial minorities have the highest infection rates.(1) Among new cases of HIV infection reported among 13- to 24-year-old men in the United States in 2001, 48% were among men who have sex with men, 3% were among men who injected drugs, another 3% were among men who both had sex with men and injected drugs, and only 6% were among men who were exposed through heterosexual contact.(2) Among new cases of HIV reported among young women aged 13-24 years, the exposure category with the largest number of cases was heterosexual contact (33%).
In addition, many young people also become infected with other STDs that facilitate the transmission of HIV.Finally, some adolescents are at risk of contracting HIV through sharing needles used to inject drugs.These patterns have important implications for educational programs.On the other hand, in the United States, most of these adolescents are actually at relatively low risk, because they rarely, if ever, have sex with people who are HIV infected.In contrast, adolescents in countries where HIV infection is widespread are at much higher risk of contracting HIV through sexual intercourse, as are adolescents in low-prevalence countries who have unprotected intercourse with members of very high-risk groups (eg, males who have sex with other males or injection drug users).