Online Program

Partner communication among sexually active college students: Implications for STI prevention programs

Monday, November 4, 2013

Katie Hein, Ph.D., Health Promotion and Behavior, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Jessica Legge Muilenburg, PhD, Department of Health Promotion and Behavior, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Sexually active college students are often working to develop meaningful partnerships. Ideally sexual partners discuss issues together concerning their relationship and each partner's sexual behaviors and attitudes. The purpose of this study is to investigate how comfortable sexually active college students are with talking to their current partner(s). We surveyed 322 college students at a Southeastern university using an anonymous questionnaire related to sexual behaviors. The majority of students were female (75.6%) and white (73%). Students' communication comfort differed depending on the topic. The topics respondents felt most comfortable talking about were: birth control (76.2%), condom use (74.7%), the relationship (monogamy, multiple partners, open relationship) (64.8%), and sexual orientation (64%). Fewer, although still a majority, talk to sexual partners about STI prevention (59.1 %), pregnancy decision making (56.5%), dating violence (55.8%) and abstinence (54.5%). Of concern is that less than half are comfortable talking to sexual partners about STI testing (45.5%) and sexual past (41.7%). Students are comfortable talking to sexual partners about birth control and condoms but seem more concerned with preventing unintended pregnancy than preventing STIs. Although STI prevention is still important to students, discussion of critical prevention issues such as testing and sexual history is not occurring among a majority of sexually active students. STI prevention programs must continue to target these hard-to-discuss behaviors.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Compare topics that college students discuss comfortably with sexual partners to those that are harder to discuss. Discuss implications on STI prevention of college students’ lack of comfort in discussing STI testing and sexual past with their sexual partners.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have investigated communication and how it impacts prevention with students of a variety of ages. Women's health issues are a primary interest.
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.

Back to: 3169.0: Let's Talk About Sex