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Sexual Partner Characteristics and Sexually Transmitted Diseases Among Adolescents and Young Adults

Staras, Stephanie A. S. PHD*; Cook, Robert L. MD; Clark, Duncan B. MD, PHD

Sexually Transmitted Diseases: April 2009 - Volume 36 - Issue 4 - p 232-238
doi: 10.1097/OLQ.0b013e3181901e32

Background: Among adolescents and young adults, the extent that partner characteristics account for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in context of individual sexual activities and demographic characteristics is unclear.

Methods: Sexual partner characteristics, individual sexual activities, and STD diagnosis were assessed among 15 to 24-year-old STD clinic attendees from 1999 to 2002 (n = 412). We used exact logistic regression to calculate odds ratios (OR) for several sexual partner characteristics (age discordance, incarceration, STD diagnosis, other partners, alcohol problem, marijuana problem, and a calculated composite variable) adjusting for demographics and individual sexual activities, including condom use.

Results: Sexual partner characteristics associated with STD diagnosis were ≥5 years age discordance [OR = 2.6 (95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.6, 4.5)] and STD in the past year [OR = 3.4 (95% CI = 2.0, 5.7)]. Even when considering individual sexual activities, composite partner risk was associated with STD diagnosis [intermediate to low OR = 2.1 (95% CI = 1.0, 4.2) and high to low OR = 3.4 (95% CI = 1.6, 7.0)]. Composite individual sexual activities was associated with STD diagnosis when considering demographics [intermediate to low OR = 1.8 (95% CI = 1.0, 3.2), high to low OR = 2.3 (95% CI = 1.2, 4.5)], but not when also considering partner characteristics [intermediate to low OR = 1.6 (95% CI = 0.9, 2.8), high to low OR = 1.8 (95% CI = 0.8, 3.9)].

Conclusions: Among this sample of 15 to 24-year-olds, sexual partner characteristics identified individuals at increased risk of prevalent STDs and were more predictive of STDs than an individual's sexual activities.

A study of 15 to 24-year-old men and women attending an sexually transmitted disease clinic found a stronger association between sexually transmitted diseases and sexual partner characteristics than between sexually transmitted diseases and individual sexual activities.

From the *Department of Epidemiology and Health Policy Research, School of Medicine, the †Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, College of Public Health and Health Professions, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida; and the ‡Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

We thank Diane M. Comer for data management and technical assistance.

Supported in part by funding by the National Institute of Health K23 AA00303 and K02 AA00291.

Correspondence: Stephanie A. S. Staras, PhD, University of Florida, Department of Epidemiology and Health Policy Research, PO Box 100017, Gainesville, FL 32608. E-mail:

Received for publication June 13, 2008, and accepted October 3, 2008.

© Copyright 2009 American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association