Why don't young adults protect themselves against sexual transmission of HIV? Possible answers to a complex question.AIDS Educ Prev. 1993 Fall; 5(3):220-33.AE
Using theories of health behavior, this study aimed to advance the understanding of risk-taking regarding human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection among young adults by describing: (a) their representation (i.e., schema) about HIV infection, (b) their problems with use of condoms and comfort with safe-sex practices, and (c) situations associated with risky sexual behavior and reported reasons for risk-taking. Participants were 272 young adult college students whose average age was 19.3 years (SD = 2.4). They completed an extensive questionnaire developed for the study. The representation of HIV infection in this sample lacked the specific and detailed information necessary to guide sexual behavior. For example, participants were aware of the causes of sexual transmission of HIV, but many persons indicated uncertainty about the effectiveness of various preventive strategies (e.g., latex condoms, birth control devices). A number of specific problems with using condoms were identified or expected by participants. These included inadequate lubrication, poor fit, and breaks or leaks during intercourse. The majority of the sample (85.3%) reported at least one occurrence of unprotected sexual intercourse. For 60% of them, the stated reason for the risk-taking was that the intercourse was unplanned or spontaneous; 50% reported that they "just knew" the partner was safe and not infected with HIV. Implications for health education programs are discussed.