Online Program

Talk about testing: What sexual partners discuss in relations to STI status and why

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 : 1:15 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Margo Mullinax, Ph.D., MPH, School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
Michael Reece, PhD, MPH, School of Public Health, Indiana University-Bloomington, Bloomington, IN
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a major public health concern. While testing has been proven important in addressing STIs, there is little systematic information on how macro-level messages about testing are processed on the interpersonal level. This research fills this gap by examining interpersonal communication about STIs and testing, including what sexual partners talk about, when, and why. Data for this research comes from an online questionnaire conducted April-May 2012. Mixed method data was analyzed from 181 participants, (79.6% women and 20.4% men, mean age of 26). The majority identified as white (82.3%) and heterosexual (79.6%). While 52 participants reported talking to their partners about STIs, 32.7% of participants did not before having sex. In terms of content, 50% clarified types of STIs they had been tested for, 59.6% clarified about sexual exclusivity, and 32.7% asked about testing chronology. Only 9.6% asked about IV drug use history. The majority (85.5%) did not ask for proof of testing and had never asked a partner to go to a STI clinic together (76.1%). A small but notable percentage (4.4%) reported lying about STI status and 34.6% reported telling a partner they did not have an STI even though they had not been tested since last sexual activity. Public health educators need to promote not only STI communication, but how to have effective and informed conversations about STIs. Campaigns may need to target what to discuss with partners about STIs in order to make subsequent sexual health decisions.

Learning Areas:

Protection of the public in relation to communicable diseases including prevention or control
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe specifically what sexual partners communicate about, when, and why. Identify mechanisms for facilitating health communication between sexual partners.

Keyword(s): Communication, STD Prevention

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: As Project Coordinator at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion, Margo assumes leadership of a multiple research projects from data collection to analysis and dissemination. Awarded various grants, Margo has also conducted independent research on sexual health topics domestically and abroad. While working on her PhD in Health Behavior, she has been involved with mentoring undergraduate students in qualitative methodology.
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.