Shah, Yasir (2018). The influence of knowledge in improving long term safer sex behaviors: A theoretical examination.
Although recent data from the Youth Risk Behavioral Survey (YRBS) 2015, has reported that safer sex behaviors among youth has increased in the past decade, 43% of youth were still engaging in unprotected sex (Kann et al., 2016). This has resulted in high STD rates among US youth and young-adults between the ages of 15- 24 (CDC, 2018). Lack of awareness and knowledge around sexual risk-taking at a young age can result in continued engagement in unprotected sex. The future health and wellbeing of the nation’s youth can be severely compromised for those who are not educated on the harms of unsafe sexual behavior. In this study, a theoretically driven examination was conducted to understand the short-term and long-term influence of correct knowledge of safer sex on safer sex behaviors. The study also accounted for the possible and indirect influence of an individual’s health beliefs on safer sex behaviors in the short-term as well as in the longterm. In order to examine this influence, the study utilized a quantitative analysis of secondary data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). The study results were overall supportive of the theoretical presumption that correct knowledge was significantly associated with positive safer sex behaviors in high school and young adulthood. Correct knowledge of safer sex behaviors was also significantly associated with health beliefs. The role of health beliefs to health behaviors, however was not as well supported by study findings. The influence of correct knowledge of safer sex behaviors was not mediated by health beliefs. Based on the findings of this study, recommendations are for increased sex education in US high schools in combination with skill-building interventions that improve self-efficacy around sexual decision making. This would ensure that youth in the US not only engage in safer sex at an early age but also continue to adopt safer sex behaviors in young adulthood in order to reduce their risk for STDs and HIV/AIDS.
Milken Institute School of Public Health
McDonnell, Karen A.
George Washington University