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Intent to accept and acceptance of herpes testing in adolescents and young adults


Objectives: Understanding the intention–behaviour association with HSV-2 testing is important because it can inform interventions that might be needed to support an effective HSV-2 control programme. This study aims to understand attitudinal, symptomatic and historical precursors to intent to accept, and acceptance of, HSV-2 testing.

Methods: The sample included 900 individuals recruited from four sites located in two US cities. Participants completed self-report questionnaires. Expressed intent to accept HSV-2 testing was assessed with an item that asked about acceptance of a test with the same characteristics as the test offered later. The health behaviour outcome was acceptance of the HSV-2 test when it was offered. Predictors examined were STI history, genital symptoms, anxiety and STI-related stigma.

Results: Expressed intent significantly predicted test acceptance. However, a number of participants made testing decisions which were at odds with their stated intent. Genital symptoms and STI history significantly predicted both greater intent and test acceptance. STI stigma only predicted lower intent, whereas anxiety only predicted greater acceptance. Intent fully mediated the relationship between genital symptoms and test acceptance, but did not mediate the relationship between STI history and test acceptance.

Conclusions: This study suggests that intent does not always predict behaviour, even when the two are measured within close temporal proximity. There are factors that may predict intent only or behaviour only, or may predict behaviour, but solely through influencing intent. Understanding how these various relationships work may be important to efforts designed to maximise acceptance of HSV-2 testing.

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