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Sexually Transmitted Infections Essay

3187 words - 13 pages

As of 2008, it is estimated there are over 110 million sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the United States, with an additional 20 million new infections reported each year (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2013). Not only are STIs increasingly prevalent, but their impact on health and well-being can be significant. HIV, for instance, directly leads to the death of 18,000 people in the U.S. each year and the direct medical costs associated with STIs approach $16 billion annually (CDC, 2013). Young people age 15-24 are particularly at risk, accounting for only 25% of the sexually active population, but making up 50% of newly diagnosed STIs (CDC, 2013).
For young people then, understanding one’s level of risk is crucial for maintaining their health. One strategy is to engage in safer-sex communication with one’s partner, which is a type of substantive communication that may include such topics as: (a) inquiring about a partners’ sexual history or revealing one’s own sexual history, (b) discussing and/or requesting contraceptive methods, or (c) inquiring about a partner’s STI/HIV serostatus or last date of testing (Noar, Carlyle, & Christi, 2006). The rationale for this strategy is that by finding out a potential partner has engaged in risky sexual behaviors, has been sexually indiscriminate, or has not recently been tested may indicate an elevated level of risk for contracting an STI (Lucchetti, 1999). Additionally, by discussing risk-related topics, this also opens the door for individuals to discuss and enact sexual precautions such as condoms (Anderson, Kunkel, & Dennis, 2010). Whereas some authors have doubted the effectiveness of this strategy (e.g., Cline, Johnson, & Freeman, 1992; Metts & Fitzpatrick, 1992), others contend that the potential for safer-sex communication as a preventative safer-sex behavior has not been adequately studied (e.g., Noar, Zimmerman, & Atwood, 2004; Wolitski & Branson, 2002). Recent meta-analyses, however, support the effectiveness safer-sex communication as a health protective behavior. For example, Sheeran, Abraham, and Orbell (1999) found that communication about condom use was the strongest (r = .46) predictor of actual condom use. Additionally, Allen, Emmers-Sommer, and Crowell (2002) found a similar, albeit much smaller effect (r = .16) of communication about condom use on actual condom use. More recently, Noar and colleagues (2006) found a moderate effect size (r = .22) of safer-sex communication on reported condom use. Specifically, communication about condom use (r = .25) and discussion of sexual histories (r = .23) had a significantly larger effect size on condom use than general safer-sex communication (r = .18). Overall, these studies suggest a consistent and somewhat powerful relationship between safer-sex communication and the eneactment of protection sexual health behaviors such as condom use.
Despite the importance of safer-sex communication, an abundance of research has...

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