Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Partner communication about sexually transmitted disease (STD) / HIV risk, a potential factor in effective STD risk reduction, has been understudied among high-risk adolescent populations, particularly among incarcerated adolescents.
This study presented incarcerated adolescents' descriptions and perceptions of sexual communication about STDs / HIV before having sexual intercourse with new partners.
Qualitative thematic analyses were conducted on semi-structured individual interviews with 38 incarcerated adolescents (age range 15-18; 47% female; 32% Hispanic; 24% Black, 24% Caucasian, 32% mixed race, 20% other/unknown race).
Several common and heavily emphasized themes were elicited. Adolescents recounted experiences of telling and being told deliberate lies and misinformation about disease status and sexual history. Sexual communication among adolescents generally fell into two scripts: 1) partners discussed pregnancy or relationship history, but not STDs or HIV; 2) partners exchanged disease status information in brief, one- or two- sentence statements. Whereas most sexual communication topics were initiated by either gender, females tended to initiate conversations that focused on STD / HIV status or testing. Males were more likely to report no sexual communication.
Dishonesty and distrust were central features of partner communication. Adolescent partners were rarely comprehensive in the topics they covered. The value of partner communication may be undermined by these perceptions and behaviors. Gender differences may also exist.
Further research should investigate the generalizability of the current results to other incarcerated adolescents. STD / HIV prevention programs that seek to increase partner communication should address trustworthiness and specify STD / HIV status as a conversation topic. Programs should also suggest condom use, regardless of ability to perceive deception, as the best strategy to prevent STDs / HIV.