Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention

RAP Time

(Volume 3, No. 4, April 2, 1999)

Issue Contents

Survey of Teens Reveals Widespread Denial of Risk and Misconceptions About STDs

STDs are a serious health problem among our nation's teens.

Nearly four million teens get an STD every year, with about one-third of sexually experience young adults having an STD by age 24. About one-fourth of new STD cases occur among young people ages 15-19.

Sample and Methodology
A random-sample, national telephone survey of 400 teens, ages 15 to 17 years old, was conducted in March and April, 1998. Teen were asked questions concerning STD issues.

Outcomes of the Study
Forty-two percent indicated they have had sexual intercourse (sexually experienced), which is consistent with other national statistics. Nearly one-half of those sexually experienced indicated they were currently in a sexual relationship. Thirty-two percent have had one sexual partner, and 23% and 45% had two partners or three or more partners, respectively.

Major STD-related findings include:

  • Forty-four percent and 33% indicated that HIV/AIDS and STDs other than HIV/AIDS, respectively, are each one of the most important issues facing teens today.
  • Forty-seven percent and 34% of all teens indicated that they had no risk at all or not much risk, respectively, of getting an STD. Of sexually experienced teens, 27% and 41% indicated themselves at no risk at all and not much risk, respectively, of getting an STD.
  • Forty-five percent thought that about 1 in 10 people will get an STD at some point in their lives. Thirty percent and 25% thought that about 1 in 10 or fewer and more than 1 in 10, respectively, would get an STD at some point in their lives.
  • Seventy-nine percent and 57% of the sexually experienced teens indicated that they used a condom the last time they had sex and every time they had sex, respectively.
  • Seventy-five percent underestimate the incidence of STDs. Forty-five percent did not know that STDs increase risk of HIV.
  • Eighty percent and 55% learned about STDs at school or from a parent, respectively.
  • Seventy percent and 75% of sexually experienced teens had never been tested for STDs other than HIV and for HIV/AIDS, respectively.
  • Four percent indicated that they ever had an STD.
  • Seventy percent believed that it is often more embarrassing for couples to talk about sexual issues, like STDs, than to have sex.
  • Forty-five percent said that if they had an STD they would feel very uncomfortable telling the sexual partner they had at the time.

Implications for Prevention
The study outcomes strongly support the need for a comprehensive STD/HIV prevention education program for teens. The results indicate content areas needing specific attention.

SOURCE: The Kaiser Family Foundation. (1999). The Kaiser Family Foundation/MTV/TEEN PEOPLE National Survey of 15-17 Year Olds: What Teens Know and Don't (But Should) About Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Menlo Park, CA. (call: 1-88-656-4533; pub. #1465).

Rural Persons with HIV Disease Face Many Barriers

A sample of 226 men and women living with HIV disease in a single midwestern state was surveyed to determine the problems they face that impede care service provision.

Rural persons living with HIV disease, compared to their urban counterparts, had greater problems with the following: the need to travel long distances to medical facilties; a shortage of adequately trained medical and mental health professionals; a lack of transportation; and community residents' stigma toward people living with HIV.

Both rural and urban respondents indicated the lack of knowledge about HIV in the community, insufficient personal financial resources, the lack of employment opportunities, and the lack of supportive work environments.

The large number of barriers indicates that innovative programs designed to remove these barriers and improve the quality of life of rural persons living with HIV are needed.

SOURCE: Heckman, T. G., et al. (1998). Barriers to care among persons living with HIV/AIDS in urban and rural areas. AIDS Care, 10, 365-375.

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Rural 4-H Youth Have A Sense of Invulnerability to HIV Infection

Thirty-eight white adolescents (22 females, 16 males), ages 11-17, residing in two southern Indiana counties and members of the local 4-H club were interviewed in December 1996. Focus groups were used for data collection.

Major findings included: a sense of personal invulnerability to HIV was common among both females and males due in part to beliefs that small towns are isolated from HIV; both genders stated that they would not practice sexual abstinence just to avoid HIV; and both genders indicated that they would have sex with another person even if condoms were not available.

Males stated they would cooperate with a female partner's request for sexual abstinence, monogamy or condom use and both genders said that peers and family have the most influence on sexual behavior.

HIV prevention education for rural adolescents should strive to eliminate their feeling of invulnerability to HIV infection.

SOURCE: Yarber, W. L., & Sanders, S. A. (1998). Rural adolescent views of HIV prevention: Focus groups at two Indiana rural 4-H clubs. The Education Health Monograph 16(2), 1-6.

Rural College Students Less Likely to Use Condoms

A sample of 595 undergraduates from three universities in Indiana were surveyed. In comparison to urban subjects, students who grew up in a rural area were less likely to use a condom during their last sexual intercourse.

SOURCE: Sherwood-Puzzello, C. M. (1998). Health motivation and HIV risk behavior among college students from urban and rural communities. Health Education Monograph, 16(2), 22-31.

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Acceptance of Female Condom Increased

Acceptance of the female condom among African American and Latino patients from STD clinics was studied. Two percent had used the female condom at first focus group; about 85% at the second session had used it. Females who had inserted a barrier contraceptive method were most comfortable with the female condom.

SOURCE: El-Bassel., et al. (1998). Acceptability of the female condom among STD clinic patients. AIDS Education and Prevention,10, 465-480.