OBJECTIVE--Of all age groups, teenagers have the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases. Therefore, it is particularly important to target interventions at this group. Teenagers attending STD clinics are at particularly high risk since behaviours that lead to an STD can also result in the transmission of HIV. The goal of this study was to collect information concerning the prevalence and correlates of high-risk behaviours in this population as a first step in the design of an effective intervention programme. METHODOLOGY--Face-to-face interviews were conducted with patients attending five STD clinics operated by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. RESULTS--In the exclusively heterosexual teenage subgroup (N = 100, 55% Hispanic, 28% African-American, 10% White), males became sexually active at a younger age than females (14 years vs 14.9 years, p < 0.02), had more partners in the last 12 months (4.1 vs 2.0, p < 0.003), more "steady" partners (2.2 vs 1.4, p < 0.02) and more life time partners (14.1 vs. 4.1, p < 0.001). Only 10.0% of males and 3.8% of females reported consistent condom use with steady partners and 36% of both male and female respondents with non-steady partners. The decision to use condoms during vaginal sex was most likely made by the respondent, whereas the decision not to use condoms was most likely a joint decision. CONCLUSIONS--An intervention aimed at improving sexual communication regarding condom use could increase this behaviour among many adolescents, since only few teenagers in our sample perceived condom use as unpleasant.
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