Online Program

Unequal beginnings: Evidence of a sexual risk syndemic among adolescent girls in the US

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Isabel Martinez, MA, Chronic Disease Epidemiology, Yale University, New Haven, CT
background: Research has identified sexual risk syndemics (i.e., the confluence of multiple risk factors) affecting vulnerable populations, yet no studies have evaluated whether a syndemic exists among adolescent minority populations. This study identified whether substance use, violence, and depression are a sexual risk syndemic for adolescent females in the U.S. and whether disparities exist by race/ethnicity.

methods: Using a sample of 2,760 girls ages of 14-17, we measured syndemic extent (i.e., number of behaviors reported) and syndemic degree (i.e., severity across behaviors reported). Logistic regression assessed associations between syndemic factors and sexual risk (multiple partners, condom use, and drugs/alcohol at last sex).

results: Syndemic extent was significantly associated with multiple partners (OR=1.23; P<0.01), no condom use at last sex (OR=1.13; P<0.05), and drugs/alcohol at last sex (OR=2.02; P<0.001). Syndemic degree was also highly associated with multiple partners (OR=1.57; P<0.001), no condom use at last sex (OR=1.33; P<0.001), and drug/alcohol at last sex (OR=1.76;P<0.001). Interactions showed an effect between race/ethnicity and both syndemic extent and syndemic degree for multiple partners. Simple effects were calculated for significant interactions. Syndemic extent produced an odds of 2.18 (P<0.05) for multiple partners and syndemic degree an odds of 2.10 (P<0.05) for multiple partners, both effects among Black adolescents.

conclusions: Findings suggest a sexual risk syndemic is present in adolescence and that disparities exist particularly among Black adolescents. Prevention efforts should target substance use, violence, and depression as factors contributing to sexual risk disparities, particularly as a syndemic rather than focusing on individual behaviors.

Learning Areas:

Diversity and culture
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe the effects of a sexual risk syndemic for adolescent girls and the disparities that exist by race/ethnicity.

Keyword(s): Adolescents, Sexual Risk Behavior

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a predoctoral scholar and PhD candidate whose dissertation research focuses on sexual risk syndemics in Black and Latina adolescents. I have several years of experience conducting research with urban minority adolescent girls, specifically focusing on sexual risk behavior and HIV risk disparities.
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.