Why Is Sexual Activity Important to Health?
High risk sexual practices such as unsafe sex and higher numbers of lifetime sexual partners can lead to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancies, which can affect immediate and long-term health as well as the economic and social well-being of individuals, families, and communities.
Recent data show increasing rates of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia infections. Young people, gay men, and bisexual men are at higher risk for STIs, which can have severe reproductive health complications, particularly for young women . Human papillomavirus (HPV) causes almost all cervical and anal cancers, as well as some vaginal, vulvar, penile and oropharyngeal cancers . Some STIs, such as HIV and herpes, cannot be cured.
There are approximately 3 million unintended pregnancies in the US each year. Rates are highest among poor, minority, young, and cohabiting women. Unintended pregnancy is associated with delayed prenatal care .
The teen pregnancy rate is falling, but as of 2010, there were still over 600,000 teen pregnancies annually . Pregnant teens are less likely than older women to receive recommended prenatal care , and more likely to have pre-term or low birthweight babies . Teen mothers are often at increased risk for STIs and repeat pregnancies , are less likely than their peers to complete high school, and more likely to live below the poverty level and rely on public assistance .
Risky sexual behaviors can have high economic costs for communities and individuals. STIs cost the US health care system almost $16 billion every year  and, in 2010, the costs of teen childbearing were estimated at over $9 billion . Communities, schools, and families can work together to adopt and implement policies and programs that reduce STIs and unplanned pregnancies, to the benefit of all.