OBJECTIVE: To examine differences in the AIDS-related knowledge, attitudes and behaviours of first year university undergraduates in 1989 and 1994. DESIGN: Comparisons were made between cross-sectional surveys, conducted in 1989 and 1994, of first year undergraduates at three Melbourne universities. RESULTS: The 1994 cohort reported more positive attitudes toward, and better knowledge of, safe sex practices and less discrimination against perceived risk groups than did the 1989 cohort; however, this was due primarily to improvement among female undergraduates. Male undergraduates either demonstrated no improvement or a decline in pro-safe sex attitudes. A general increase was found in the proportion of respondents always using condoms for vaginal sex with casual and regular partners and for oral sex with casual and regular partners. CONCLUSIONS: While the extent of sexual behaviour among these young people has remained essentially unchanged over the past five years, the extent of self-reported condom use has increased markedly. The general decline in attitudinal measures among young men contrasts with a marked improvement among young women and suggests the need for education programs targeted specifically at this group.
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