Exploratory analysis of the ecological variables associated with sexual health profiles in high-risk, sexually-active female learners in rural KwaZulu-Natal

Humphries, Hilton; Osman, Farzana; Knight, Lucia; Abdool Karim, Quarraisha

Young women are at high risk for negative sexual health outcomes. Despite their high risk, many sexually-active women never experience negative sexual health outcomes. This study explored the ecological risk factors associated with the risk profiles of sexually-active female high school-learners in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Using baseline data from N = 596 sexually-active school-going women, we explored the ecological factors associated with being sexually-active and managing risk successfully [SARS] or unsuccessfully [SARU]. Generalised estimated equations (GEE) were applied to data collected at multiple levels while adjusting for school and other included variables. GEE were used to calculate probability of being SARU.

Amongst SARU learners, 21.9% had HIV, 38.6% had HSV-2, 12.5% were pregnant, 28.7% self-reported STI symptoms and 51.9% reported a previous pregnancy. Individual-level factors had the greatest impact on being SARU. Univariate and multivariate analysis highlighted several important partner factors associated with SARU. Age was significantly associated with the risk profiles (p<0.0001), a greater proportion of SARU learners were 18 or older compared to the SARS learners. The odds of being SARU decreased when ≥18 years (aOR = 0.2577, 95% CI 0.1462–0.4542) or if not falling pregnant was important (aOR = 0.6343, 95% CI 0.4218–0.9538). Having >1 HIV test (aOR = 2.2161, 95% CI 1.3964–3.5169) increased the odds a SARU profile.

Individual and partner level factors are important for the sexual health profile of an adolescent female. While the exploratory findings require further research; managing multiple sexual health outcomes, tailoring responses around a risk profile and including partners is essential for successful interventions.

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April 30, 2018