Open Access Research article

Risk behaviors of 15–21 year olds in Mexico lead to a high prevalence of sexually transmitted infections: results of a survey in disadvantaged urban areas

Juan-Pablo Gutierrez1, Stefano M Bertozzi1*, Carlos J Conde-Glez2 and Miguel-Angel Sanchez-Aleman2

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Evaluation & Health Economics, National Institute of Public Health, Cuernavaca, Mexico

2 Division of Medical Microbiology, National Institute of Public Health, Cuernavaca, Mexico

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BMC Public Health 2006, 6:49  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-49

Published: 27 February 2006



Due to the fact that adolescents are more likely to participate in high-risk behaviors, this sector of the population is particularly vulnerable to contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and resultant health problems.


A survey was carried out among adolescents from poor homes in 204 small-urban areas of Mexico. Information was collected in relation to risk behaviors and socio-economic environment. A sub-group of the participants also provided blood and urine samples which were analyzed to detect sexually transmitted infections.


The presence of Chlamydia was detected in nearly 8% of participants who had stated that they were sexually active (18%) and approximately 12% were positive for herpes type 2-specific antibodies. For both, a greater proportion of girls resulted positive compared to boys. The presence of these biological outcomes of sexual risk behavior was associated with other risk behaviors (smoking), but not with self-reported indicators of protected sex (reported use of condom during most recent sexual activity).


The results presented in this study show a startlingly high prevalence of HSV-2 among sexually active Mexican adolescents in poor urban areas, suggesting that this group has participated to a great extent in risky sexual practices. The relationships between socioeconomic environment and adolescent risk behavior need to be better understood if we are to design preventive interventions that modify the determinants of risk behaviors.