Author(s): Trani F, Gnisci F, Nobile CG, Angelillo IF
OBJECTIVE: Sexually transmitted infections (STI) among adolescents continue to be an important public health problem for many industrialized and developing countries. This study evaluated knowledge and behaviour in adolescents regarding prevention of STI.
METHODS: Information was obtained by using self-reported questionnaire from a random sample of 644 undergraduate students at university and at public high schools aged 14-20 years in Catanzaro (Italy).
RESULTS: Only 14.2% of respondents knew about the main STI and that they can be transmitted through sexual intercourse with HIV seropositive partners; this knowledge was significantly higher among adolescents who had had a higher number of sexual partners in their lifetime and who had received information from physicians about STI. A total of 33.8% reported having had sexual intercourse at least once and the mean age at first intercourse was 16 years. Older males and adolescents with employed mothers were more likely to have reported having had a sexual experience. The prevalence of using condoms every time during sexual intercourse was 51.8% and such behaviour was more likely in younger adolescents and males. The prevalence of condom use on the last occasion of sex was 71.9%. Younger adolescents, those with a higher perception of the risk of contracting STI and those with lesser knowledge about STI were independent predictors for using condoms. The mean total score of the respondents' perception of a risk of contracting STI was 5.8.
CONCLUSIONS: Evidence to develop and implement strategies with the hope of improving adolescents' level of knowledge and reducing unsafe sexual practices.