Background Thestudy aims to identify/characterise a group of teens reporting meeting sex partners online and a group reporting meeting sex partners in-person (not online) and examine the differences between the 2 groups in sexual health risks.
Methods Youth aged 13–19 years (N=273) visiting a publicly-funded clinic completed a 20-min Audio-Computer Assisted Self-Interview. Included were global sexual behaviour questions (eg, oral/vaginal/anal sex experience, number of sex partners) and specific partnership history questions, including meeting partners online/offline. Participants were also tested for chlamydia/gonorrhea. Audio-Computer Assisted Self-Interview responses were anonymously linked to teens' biological STD results. A χ2 test was performed to determine the association between meeting a sex partner online and current STD status.
Results Participants identified as female (89.4%) and heterosexual (80.7%). Nearly 9 in 10 (88.6%) reported oral, 97.8% vaginal, and 28.6% anal sex experience. Of those with biological STD data (n=267), 14.2% had a current STD infection. Of all teens, 15.4% (n=42) reported having sex with a partner originally met online (of these, > half [57.1%] met >1 partner). Compared with teens reporting only partners met in-person, teens reporting an online partner had significantly greater numbers of oral, vaginal, and anal sex partners. However, analyses indicated no association between having a current STD and reporting an online partner, χ2 (1, N=267)=0.95, p=0.34.
Conclusions Theory-driven STD prevention and sexual health promotion interventions should be tailored to meet specific needs of young people seeking partners both online and offline. Sex-seeking, dating, and social networking websites may represent important intervention contexts.
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