Risky sexual behavior is defined as sexual activities that expose a person to the danger of getting unwanted pregnancies or infections from sexually transmitted diseases (Fetene & Mekonnen, 2018). Adolescents and young adults are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors than adults. Studies indicate that the number of youths and young adults engaging in risky sexual activities continues to rise year by year. As more youths engage in sexual intercourse, the spreading rate of STIs and other diseases such as HIV/AIDs also increase (“Sexual Risk Behaviors Can Lead to HIV, STDs, & Teen Pregnancy”, 2021). Even though youths and young adults are now informed about the dangers of engaging in illicit sex, a considerable number still practice sex that predisposes them to reproductive health issues and life-threatening diseases.
Peer pressure is considered the main reason youths and young adults engage in risky sexual behaviors, especially the first sexual encounter. During adolescence, peers contribute greatly to the adoption of either positive or negative behavior. Lack of adequate health education, especially concerning sexually transmitted diseases, is a major reason young adults and youths engage in illicit sex (Fetene & Mekonnen, 2018). Joblessness and the low economic status of families also play a major role in forcing young people into illicit sexual intercourse. Single parenthood, unstable families, and sibling sexual behaviors are noted to promote risky sexual behavior among youths and young adults.
Many young adults and adolescents engage in illicit sex that always results in unwanted health outcomes. A report written in 2019 indicated that 38% of high school students were actively engaging in sexual intercourse (“Sexual Risk Behaviors Can Lead to HIV, STDs, & Teen Pregnancy”, 2021). The same report showed that more than 9% of these students had more than one sexual partner. 7% of the students reported having experienced forced sexual intercourse at least once in their lives. Among 27% of them who had engaged in sex over the previous three months, 46% did not use a condom, 12% did not use any pregnancy planning method, and 21% were under the influence of alcohol or other drugs during the intercourse (“Sexual Risk Behaviors Can Lead to HIV, STDs, & Teen Pregnancy”, 2021). Around 10% of the students had been tested for HIV or sexually transmitted disease over the last year. Data gathered across the globe indicated that 21% of new HIV infections were found in young people aged 13-24 years. In 2018, the number of children born to teen mothers averaged around 180000. Half of the new STDs infections were also found to be in young people
Illicit sex is associated with high monetary costs on an individual, their family, and society. When young people get STIs, they require money to purchase medication to manage their conditions. Such can have a toll on their finances, that of their families and communities (Muchimba, 2019). Likewise, when youths and young adults get unwanted pregnancies, their families spend much money to support them and their young families, which brings a strain to the economic status of their families.
Health physicians are the champions of change in families and communities. When youths and young adults visit hospitals seeking intervention, especially when sick with STIs, health professionals should take that chance to counsel these young people to help them change their behavior. When young girls visit clinics and hospitals seeking antenatal care, doctors and nurses should engage them in talks that are aimed at encouraging them to change their behavior. Social workers can work as counselors to help youths avoid engaging in risky sexual behaviors. Educators should always ensure to intimate students with the consequences of illicit sexual behaviors. Parents play a key role in transforming the behaviors of youths.
The prevalence of risky sexual behavior among young adults is higher in low economic status communities. Poverty in families and communities forces young people into illicit sex (Muchimba, 2019). The governments should ensure to empower all communities. The availability of counselors in a community can aid in curtailing bad sexual habits among young people. Community health education is also vital in ensuring that families and individuals are equipped with adequate knowledge concerning unhealthy sexual behaviors.
Reducing the prevalence of risky sexual behaviors among young people requires the participation of individuals, families, educators, health physicians, communities, and the government. A three-month rigorous community-based education should be introduced in every community as it will ensure that everyone is educated concerning the dangers of illicit sexual behaviors. Establishing a year-long government-driven poverty eradication program would help empower families and communities and ensure that youths are comfortable in their homes. Integrating sex education in the school curriculum at all levels of learning can help equip young people and hence reduce the menace in communities and transform erroneous cultural beliefs and traditions.
In conclusion, risky sexual behaviors are prevalent among youths and young adults. Such sexual behaviors are caused by peer pressure, low economic status, and lack of health education. Economically empowering communities, individuals, and families can effectively reduce illicit sexual behavior among youths. Rolling out health education programs and availing counselors in communities can help reduce the menace of risky sexual behaviors in young people. Government and schools should also introduce sex education in the normal school curriculum to equip young people with information concerning sex.
Fetene, N., & Mekonnen, W. (2018). The prevalence of risky sexual behaviors among youth center reproductive health clinics users and non-users in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: A comparative cross-sectional study. PLOS ONE, 13(6), e0198657. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0198657
Muchimba, M. (2019). Social Ecological Predictors of Risky Sexual Behavior Among Young Adults. Journal Of Social, Behavioral, And Health Sciences, 13(1). https://doi.org/10.5590/jsbhs.2019.13.1.01
Sexual Risk Behaviors Can Lead to HIV, STDs, & Teen Pregnancy. Cdc.gov. (2021). https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/sexualbehaviors/index.htm.