Understanding Sexual Behavior of Adolescents: Contributions to Sexual Health Promotion and HIV/AIDS Prevention pp. 215-247
Authors: (Sonia F. Dias, International Health and Centro de Malaria e Outras Doencas Tropicais, Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, New University of Lisbon, Portugal)
Abstract: The purpose of this study was to improve the understanding of sexuality and sexual behaviors of adolescents and to identify factors that are relevant for sexual health promotion and HIV/AIDS prevention in adolescents. In order to achieve these goals, two studies, one quantitative, and one qualitative were undertaken. The quantitative study described knowledge, attitudes and sexual behaviors that are important to AIDS prevention and examined the relationship between adolescent sexual behavior and demographic factors, personal characteristics, and social context of young people (family, peers, school and community). Data were collected from the Portuguese sample of Health Behaviour in School-aged Children/WHO study, 2002. The qualitative study was used to identify and understand the dynamics of protective and risk factors relevant to AIDS prevention at individual and contextual level. In this study, 12 focus groups were conducted in six secondary schools from different geographic areas of Portugal. In the quantitative study the percent of adolescents reporting ever had sexual intercourse was 23.7%. With respect to use of condoms, 29.9% of the adolescents reported that they or their partner didn’t use a condom last time they had engage in sexual intercourse. The findings put forward differences in gender and age in knowledge, attitudes and sexual behaviors. The logistic regression analysis showed that the variables “have sexual intercourse” and “didn’t used condom last time they engage in sexual intercourse” are associated with socio-demographic characteristics, individual, family, peers, school and community variables. The qualitative study results underline that issues related to sexuality are complex and knowledge, attitudes and sexual behaviors are influenced by multiple determinants at different levels: individual, family, peers, school and community. The findings suggest that protective and risk factors interact with each other within a network of possible relations that either reduce or increase the probability of involvement in risk behaviors. The results of the two studies suggest that adolescents can’t be seen like a homogeneous group concerning knowledge, attitudes and sexual behaviors and HIV/AIDS. They highlight the significance of early interventions that involve young people, but also agents of socialization in the reduction of risk factors and the promotion of protecting factors. This study confirms that complementary use of different methodologies is an appropriate strategy to increase knowledge and understanding about complex meanings in which sexuality is submersed. This work can be useful to design and implement a comprehensive programme on sexual health promotion and AIDS prevention in young people.