Why are young college women not using condoms? Their perceived risk, drug use, and developmental vulnerability may provide important clues to sexual risk.
BACKGROUND: Young multiethnic college women (YMCW) are at risk for STDs and HIV secondary to high-risk sexual behaviors that are related to developmental issues such as invincibility, low perceived risk, and substance use. METHOD: One hundred YMCW on a southern California university campus completed surveys that examined variables that impacted their sexual risk. RESULTS: The study yielded many significantly correlated variables. Women with low perceived risk, lower use of drugs and alcohol, and who had parental involvement had lower sexual behavior risk. Women that were sexually assertive, had intentions to use condoms, and did not use substances used condoms more often. Older students in advanced grades who had steady partners used substances less and had decreased sexual risk, however, they experienced partner resistance to condoms, which canceled out any reduced risk. In a multiple regression analysis, condom use intention and substance use predicted condom use, perceived risk and substance use predicted sexual behavior risk. White women had significantly higher substance use, perceived sexual risk, and sexual behavior risk than did Latinas and African Americans. CONCLUSIONS: Despite their assertiveness and intentions, many participants had multiple sexual partners, and 64% of the YMCW were inconsistent condom users. Despite knowing the elevated risks, 52% used drugs and alcohol during sex. Negative attitudes (61%) about condoms were also demonstrated as a key factor in the lack of condom use.
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