180636 Examining the context of sexual risk among African American female college students: Addressing the border between knowledge and behavior

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lucy Annang, PhD, MPH , Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, University of South Carolina, Arnold School of Public Health, Columbia, SC
Shacara D. Johnson, BS , School of Public Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL
Malaika Pepper Washington, MSPH , Department of Health Behavior and Education, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Lilburn, GA
Jessica L. Muilenburg, PhD , Department of Health Promotion and Behavior, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Lisa C. Gary, PhD , Department of Health Care Organization & Policy, Univ. of Alabama, Birmingham, Birmingham, AL
Background: Nearly 20 million cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are reported annually, half of which are among youth ages 15-24. Of these, African American (AA) females suffer an inordinate amount yielding one of the chief health disparities in the United States. College students, generally speaking, are a population potentially at risk for STIs given that nearly 80% of all college-age individuals are sexually active. Previous research has shown that college students engage in multiple behaviors that place them at risk for HIV/AIDS.

Methods: Eighty-nine AA first-year female students (mean age=18.5) attending a college in the southeastern U.S. participated in the study. Participants completed an anonymous self-administered paper-and-pencil behavioral assessment and received a $15 cash incentive.

Results: Participants exhibited high levels of knowledge and awareness regarding STIs. While this knowledge translated into low levels of risk for many, others engaged in behaviors and maintained beliefs and perceptions about their risk level for STIs that could potentially put them at jeopardy for contracting STIs.

Conclusions: Young adults, particularly AA females, are vulnerable to STIs and it is imperative that public health professionals uncover the related behaviors, attitudes, and perceptions that may contribute to the disquieting rates of preventable disease. As these findings indicate, knowledge alone does not translate into healthy behaviors, a challenge that continues to hinder prevention efforts. Once efforts are successful in dismantling the border between knowledge and behavior, progress can be made toward thwarting the disproportionately high rates of disease among young college-age AA females.

Learning Objectives:
Assess knowledge and awareness about sexually transmitted infections (STI), sexual risk behaviors, and related contextual factors of African American female college students.

Keywords: African American, Sexual Risk Behavior

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the Principal Investigator of the grant that funded this research and I conducted the data analysis.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.