Purpose: Rates of Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) continue to increase among African-American youth. Adolescents who have a stronger identity in relation to others (relational identity) rather than to themselves (self-identity) may view intimate relationships as imperative to a positive self-concept, which may lead to risky sexual behavior and abuse. Therefore, the present study assessed the associations among a relationship imperative and HIV/STI-related risk factors and behaviors. Methods: Participants were 715 African-American adolescent females, aged 15 to 21 years. They completed measures that assessed how important a relationship was to them and HIV-related risk factors and behaviors. Participants also provided vaginal swab specimens for STI testing. Results: Multivariate logistic regression analyses, controlling for covariates, were conducted. Females who endorsed a relationship imperative (29%), compared to those who did not, were more likely to report: unprotected sex, less power in their relationships, perceived inability to refuse sex, anal sex, sex while their partner was high on alcohol/drugs, and partner abuse. Furthermore, participants with less power, recent partner abuse, and a perceived ability to refuse sex were more likely to test STI positive. Conclusion: These results indicate that if African-American adolescent females believe a relationship is imperative, they are more likely to engage in riskier sexual behaviors. Additionally, less perceived power and partner abuse increases their risk for STIs. HIV/STI prevention programs should target males and females and address healthy relationships, sense of self-worth, self-esteem and the gender power imbalance that may persist in the community along with HIV/STI risk.
- Sexual behavior
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Psychiatry and Mental health