Researchers at University of Florida say that it is possible to predict a person's risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) by looking at his/her partner's behavior.
The researchers have even charted five specific characteristics that can help gauge how risky certain partners are.
Dr. Stephanie A. S. Staras, a UF assistant professor of epidemiology and health policy research in the UF College of Medicine, believes that this work may help health-care providers better screen patients for STD risks.
"If you are choosing high-risk partners, you are much more likely to have an STD, even when we account for your condom-use patterns," she said.
"The theory is simple: You need to have sex with someone who has an STD to get an STD. Based on the prevalence of STDs in the United States, it seems like the public may not fully understand their risk," added the lead author of the study.
She has revealed that the study involved an examination of the sexual activities, partner characteristics and STD diagnoses of 412 subjects between the ages of 15 and 24.
The study showed that young adults whose partners had five or more risk characteristics were three times more likely to have an STD than those whose partners had no more than two characteristics.
It also revealed that, of those characteristics, the most telling were whether a partner already had an STD and whether a couple had an age difference of more than five years.
The researchers further said that subjects whose partners were five years older or younger than them were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with an STD than those whose partners were around the same age.
"Partner selection is an area of STD prevention that could complement what we are already doing with promoting condom use, and could possibly really help people," Staras said.
"If somehow we could convince individuals to incorporate this information in a meaningful way into their decision-making, then we could reduce STDs," she added.
Dr. Richard A. Crosby of the University of Kentucky, who was not involved in the UF study, said: "From a public health perspective, it's important to understand these findings."
He, however, added: "From a practical and prevention perspective, we still need to rely on people using valid methods of protection to avoid being infected or infecting."
A research article on the study, carried out in collaboration with researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, has been published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases.