Academic journal article International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology

Psychological and Socio-Demographic Variables Associated with Sexual Risk Behavior for Sexually Transmitted infections/HIV

Academic journal article International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology

Psychological and Socio-Demographic Variables Associated with Sexual Risk Behavior for Sexually Transmitted infections/HIV

Article excerpt

According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/ AIDS (UNAIDS, 2012), 34 million people worldwide lived with HIV/AIDS in 2011. In Spain, 2,763 new cases of HIV were reported in 2011. The most frequent transmission route of HIV/AIDS is sexual contact (Plan Nacional sobre el SIDA, 2012). As regards sexually transmitted infections (STIs), 1,944 cases of gonococcal infection and 2,909 cases of syphilis were reported in 2012. STIs predominantly affect adults between the ages of 25 and 34 (Área de vigilancia del VIH y conductas de riesgo, 2012).

New diagnoses of HIV infection are rising in the adult population due to individuals' engagement in sexual risk behaviors (UNAIDS, 2012). Such behaviors refer to sex without condoms, sexual involvement with multiple partners and early sexual debut, which contribute to unwanted pregnancies and the spread of STIs, including HIV (Bermúdez, Castro, Madrid, & Buela-Casal, 2010).

One of the most important cognitive variables that influence individuals' engagement or not in sexual risk behaviors is knowledge of STIs and HIV/AIDS. This variable refers to the information individuals have on the prevention, infection, causes and consequences of HIV/ AIDS and other STIs (Nwezeh, 2010). Such knowledge contributes to the reduction of sexual risk behaviors (Bermúdez et al., 2012; Fernández, 2012; Ramiro, Teva, Bermúdez, & Buela-Casal, 2013).

Another variable that has been found to be associated with sexual risk behaviors is worry about STIs/HIV and pregnancy. It is understood as the feeling of concern, fear, uneasiness or anguish related to the possibility of contracting HIV or another STI and/or having an unwanted pregnancy (Crosby et al., 2001; Smith & Watkins, 2005). In fact, previous studies have found a relationship between greater worry about STIs/HIV and higher condom use (Sales et al., 2009; Smith & Watkins, 2005). Moreover, in a recent study conducted by the Spanish Interdisciplinary AIDS Society (SEISIDA-Sociedad Española Interdisciplinaria del Sida, 2012), 90% of participants considered themselves unlikely or extremely unlikely to become infected with HIV and only 30% had ever been tested for HIV.

An additional relevant variable in the prediction of sexual risk behaviors is self-efficacy to refuse sex, that is, individuals' perception of their own ability to refuse sexual intercourse (Seth, Raiji, DiClemente, & Rose, 2009). In this regard, previous studies have found that individuals with higher self-efficacy to refuse sex tend to report higher frequency of condom use and healthy sexual behaviors (DiClemente et al., 2004).

Considering the above-mentioned points, our study had the following objectives: 1) Analyze the relationship between socio-demographic variables and individuals' knowledge of STIs/HIV, worry about STIs/HIV and pregnancy, and self-efficacy to refuse sex; and 2) analyze whether knowledge of STIs/HIV, worry about STIs/HIV and pregnancy, and self-efficacy to refuse sex are predictors of sexual risk behaviors. To the extent possible, we followed the recommendations made by Hartley (2012).

Method

Participants

The sample was composed of 1,106 Spanish young and adults - 60% females and 40% males - aged between 17 and 55 years (M = 27.99 years; SD = 8.86). The sociodemographic characteristics of the sample are shown on Table 1.

Instruments

- Cuestionario aspectos sociodemográficos y conducta sexual (Questionnaire on socio-demographic aspects and sexual behavior, Teva, Bermúdez, & Buela-Casal, 2009). The questionnaire includes 23 questions on participants' socio-demographic characteristics (i.e., age, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, education level and monthly income). We also included the following questions on the HIV test: whether participants had been tested for HIV; whether they had ever contracted an STI; and whether they were planning to get tested for HIV. We also included questions on participants' sexual behavior: age at vaginal sex initiation; number of coital partners in their lifetime and in the past two months; and frequency of protected vaginal intercourse (i. …

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