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Sexual behaviour 

Sexual behaviour

Sexual behaviour

Anne M. Johnson

and Catherine H. Mercer


May 30, 2013: This chapter has been re-evaluated and remains up-to-date. No changes have been necessary.

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date: 29 April 2017

Discussion of sexual lifestyle and the ability to take a sexual history are relevant to a wide range of clinical practice. Most of the population is attracted to, and has sex, exclusively with people of the opposite sex. The age at which people first have sex has decreased in recent decades, increasing the time available to accumulate sexual partners and thus be at risk of STIs, including HIV. While many people have few partners, a small proportion of the population has many.

People with many partners are most at risk of STIs, but there are a number of other influences including the gender, age, and ethnicity of their partners and the type of sexual practice. Strategies to reduce the adverse consequences of sexual behaviour (including STIs and unintended pregnancy) tend therefore to encourage reducing partner numbers, using condoms and effective contraception, and engaging in less risky practices.

Sexual function problems are relatively common and need to be considered in a range of clinical consultations.

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