Objectives: Adolescent females are at significant risk for sexually transmitted infections (STI) and may not accurately incorporate indicators of risk into their perceptions of susceptibility. The objectives of the current analyses were to: (1) examine the relation between perceived susceptibility and indicators of risk; and (2) investigate the relation between perceived susceptibility and actual STI diagnosis.
Methods: Participants were 209 sexually active adolescent females. Indicators of STI risk included STI history, recent symptoms, and sexual risk behaviour (that is, recent unprotected sex and numbers of sexual partners). Chlamydia and gonorrhoea infection were assessed at baseline, 6, and 12 months post-baseline using urine based ligase chain reaction testing.
Results: Most participants perceived little or no chance that they would be diagnosed with an STI in the following year. There was no relation between almost all STI indicators and perceptions of susceptibility. Among those receiving a positive chlamydia or gonorrhoea test (n=49) at baseline or in the year following, almost all (81.3%) had perceived themselves to be at little or no risk.
Conclusion: The adolescent females in this sample did not accurately perceive their susceptibility to STI. They must be enabled to more effectively assess and modify their risk.
- adolescent health
- sexual health
- STD prevention
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This research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health grant #P01 MH/DA 56826-01A1