Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Exploring Gender Differences in the Relationship between HIV/STD Testing and Condom Use among Undergraduate College Students

Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Exploring Gender Differences in the Relationship between HIV/STD Testing and Condom Use among Undergraduate College Students

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Background: Rates of HIV/AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), are increasing among university students. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine gender differences in the relationship between condom use and (I) HIV/STD testing behaviors, (2) STD treatment behaviors and, (3) alcohol use behaviors. Methods: A survey was administered to 1,500 undergraduate students in a university system in the Northeast. Frequency tests and the Fisher Exact test for associations were conducted. Results: Analysis was conducted on 1,410 surveys. Rates of sexual behavior were high, while condom use was reportedly low. Females reported higher rates of sexual activity and lower rates of condom use. Females who had been tested for HIV and STDs reported significantly lower rates of condom use than those not tested. Even more significant, females who had been treated for an STD reported low rates of condom use. Discussion: College students are reportedly continuing to practice unsafe sexual behaviors despite health education efforts on college campuses, especially females. Future research should explore the causal relationship between HIV/STD testing and treatment behaviors and condom use. Translation to Health Education Practice: This study suggests new ways of conceptualizing health education programming on college campuses through multilevel programming targeting behavioral concepts, such as perceived risk.

BACKGROUND

Presently, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a disease with no cure or vaccine, and its medical treatment is life long. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveillance data revised on June 28, 2007, show that from the beginning of the epidemic through 2006 the cumulative number of AIDS cases among young adults (20-24 years of age) is estimated to be 36,224 or 3.6% of total reported cases. (1) In Connecticut, the 20-29 age group comprises 12.8% of cumulative AIDS cases through 2007 and 25% of cumulative reported HIV cases since January 1,2002, when HIV became a reportable disease in Connecticut. (2)

Among the 33 states with confidential name-based HIV infection reporting, gender ratio has been shown to vary by age at diagnosis. In 2006, females accounted for 36% of adolescents aged 13 to 19 years who were diagnosed with HIV infection, compared with 28% of young adults aged 20 to 24 years and 25% of persons aged 25 and older. (1) From 2001 through 2005, the majority of AIDS cases diagnosed among adolescent and young adult females were attributed to high-risk heterosexual contact (heterosexual contact with a partner who is at increased risk for HIV infection, i.e., a homosexual or bisexual man, an injection drug user, or a person with documented HIV infection), and in the same time period the majority of cases among adolescent and young adult males were attributed to male-to-male sexual contact. (2)

Students attending universities engage in behaviors that put them at risk for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The 2006 National College Health Assessment (3) reported sexual experience among college students at 68.5% for oral sex, 64.2% for vaginal sex, and 22.3% for anal sex. Additionally, 23.6% of students reported having two or more sexual partners within the past 12 months. Specific rates of reported condom use and other safer sex behaviors vary across samples of college students. Data collected by the American College Health Association (ACHA) indicate that among sexually active students, only 3.9% reported using a condom the last time they had oral sex, 54% the last time they had vaginal sex, and 26.6% the last time they had anal sex) Whereas the majority of students surveyed on college campuses report having used condoms some time in the past, routine and regular use of condoms is low.

Many studies have investigated factors associated with condom use among college students and some have demonstrated that higher sexual risk behavior correlates with alcohol use. …

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