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Early sexual debut among young men in rural South Africa: heightened vulnerability to sexual risk?
  1. A Harrison1,
  2. J Cleland2,
  3. E Gouws3,
  4. J Frohlich4
  1. 1Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine and Population Studies and Training Center, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA, and HIV Prevention Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Durban, South Africa
  2. 2Centre for Population Studies, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London, 50 Bedford Square, London WC1, UK
  3. 316 Rue de la Canonniere, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland
  4. 4Centre for AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), Nelson Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu/Natal, Durban, South Africa
  1. Correspondence to:
 Abigail Harrison
 Population Studies and Training Center, PO Box 1836, Providence, RI 02912, USA;


Objective: This report examines early sexual debut (<age 15) among young men in rural South Africa including (1) risk behaviours at first sexual experience, and (2) age at first sex as a predictor of later sexual risk.

Methods: Analysis of sexual behaviour data for men 15–24 years (n = 314) from representative cross sectional household survey.

Results: 13.1% of 15–24 year old men experienced sexual debut before age 15. Men with sexual debut at less than age 15 were more likely to report risk behaviours at first sexual experience: no condom use (19%), a casual partner (26.8%), and not feeling they had been “ready and wanted to have sex” (19.5%). In multivariate analysis, early sexual debut was strongly associated with ⩾3 partners in the past 3 years (OR = 10.26, p<0.01).

Conclusions: Men who initiate sex before age 15 form a distinct risk group in this setting. Specific interventions are needed for young men in the preteen years, before sexual debut.

  • sexual debut
  • South Africa

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  • Competing interests: There are no competing interests to declare.

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