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Transitions to sexual intercourse and substance use among South African high school students

Lori-Ann Palen, MS, Dept. of Human Development & Family Studies, The Pennsylvania State University, S-113 Henderson Building, University Park, PA 16802, 814-865-5206, lxp201@psu.edu, Edward A. Smith, DrPH, Prevention Research Center, The Pennsylvania State University, S-109 Henderson Building, University Park, PA 16802, and Linda L. Caldwell, PhD, Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management, The Pennsylvania State University, 201 Mateer Building, University Park, PA 16802.

HIV transmission is a pressing public health concern for youth in South Africa (MacPhail & Campbell, 2001). Previous research suggests that substance use is linked to both sexual intercourse and certain sexual risk behaviors in this population (e.g., Palen, Smith, Flisher, Caldwell, & Mpofu, 2006). A clearer understanding of the developmental nature of these associations could inform efforts to prevent the transmission of HIV among South African youth. This study uses Latent Transition Analysis (Lanza, Flaherty, & Collins, 2002) to describe the transitions to first sexual intercourse and first use of substances. Participants were 2,375 high school students from the Mitchell's Plain area of Cape Town, South Africa. They were participating in a research trial of a comprehensive leisure, life skills, and sexuality education program. Students completed four semiannual questionnaires that included items about their sexual behavior and substance use. A series of LTAs revealed that, of sexual intercourse and substance use, substance use was typically the first risk behavior to be initiated. Youth were more likely to initiate new risk behaviors over the school year than during the summer months. Also, boys were more likely than girls to transition to sexual intercourse and substance use. These results suggest that researchers and practitioners should give greater attention to the potential role that substances play in the initiation of sexual behavior. Also, we should attempt to understand the social and environmental factors underlying school/summer and gender differences in transitions to risk behavior.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the session, the learner will be able to

Keywords: International Health, Adolescent Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Not Answered

Handout (.ppt format, 152.5 kb)

Perspectives on HIV/AIDS & Sexual Issues

The 134th Annual Meeting & Exposition (November 4-8, 2006) of APHA