Community Influences on Young People's Sexual Behavior in 3 African Countries

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Abstract

Objectives

I examined the role of community-level factors in the reporting of risky sexual behaviors among young people aged 15 to 24 years in 3 African countries with varying HIV prevalence rates.

Methods

I analyzed demographic and health survey data from Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Zambia during the period 2001 through 2003 to identify individual, household, and community factors associated with reports of risky sexual behaviors.

Results

The mechanisms through which the community environment shaped sexual behaviors varied among young men and young women. Community demographic profiles were not associated with reports of risky sexual behavior among young women but were influential in shaping the behavior of young men. Prevailing economic conditions and the behaviors and attitudes of adults in the community were strong influences on young people's sexual behaviors.

Conclusions

These results provide strong support for a focus on community-level influences as an intervention point for behavioral change. Such interventions, however, should recognize specific cultural settings and the different pathways through which the community can shape the sexual behaviors of young men and women.

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