Some people are at higher risk for STIs, including HIV, due to various reasons including the kind of sex they are having and the amount of partners they have.
It is important that people from high risk groups are regularly screened for infections and, on some occasions, may have more in-depth testing depending on the circumstances.
Vaccinations are offered to some people in high risk groups and their partners. These can include vaccination against Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Human Papilloma virus (HPV).
People who are at a higher risk of contracting an STI include:
Men who have sex with men (MSM)
Sexually active gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men are at higher risk of contracting STIs.
Over half of all new HIV positive results occur among MSM and the majority of new syphilis infections are in men who have sex with men.
There are many reasons behind this increased risk, some of which include:
- Higher rates of infections increase the likelihood of a person coming into contact with an STI.
- Not using condoms increases the chance of getting an infection.
- Anal sex increases your risk of getting an STI, and is the riskiest sexual behaviour for exposure to HIV.
- Smaller sexual networks where STI and HIV infections can reinforce each other (each can increase the risk of contracting the other).
- The increased use of apps and online services can significantly increase the number of partners a person can have sex with, increasing the chances of contracting an STI.
Commercial Sex Workers (CSW) and their clients
Commercial Sex Workers are people who are paid for sex or sexual services. Clients are people who pay CSWs for sex or sexual services. There is an increased risk of contracting an STI for CSWs and their clients. Some reasons for this include:
- Many CSWs will have multiple partners who they don’t know the sexual history of, which comes with an increased risk of contracting an STI.
- Many CSWs will use barrier methods to protect themselves (such as condoms) for vaginal sex or anal sex, but may provide unprotected oral sex. Oral sex is a transmission route for most STIs.
- Condoms are excellent barriers against infection, but there is still a small risk of passing on infection and this risk is increased with multiple partners.
People from countries with higher rates of STIs
Some countries have higher rates of sexually transmitted infections than others. This means there are a higher percentage of people with an infectious STI.
If you have had sex with a partner from a high-risk country, then there is an increased chance of you contracting an infection.
High-risk regions include:
- Sub-Saharan Africa
- South-East Asia
- Latin America/Caribbean
People with multiple partners, or partners from other high risk group
Having multiple sexual partners increases the risk of STIs being passed on quickly.
If your partner is from a higher risk group (see above) then you may be at higher risk of an STI.