Factors associated with multiple sexual partners among first-year students in a South African university

Godswill N. Osuafor, Chinwe E. Okoli


University students are at greatest risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and HIV, due to multiple sex partners. However, first-year students are arguably, the most susceptible to sexually transmitted infections and HIV. The study examined the factors associated with multiple sexual partners among 348 first-year students aged 17 to 24 years old in a rural university in 2016. Data were collected on the demographic characteristics and sexual behaviours of the respondents in the one-month preceding the survey. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics and binary logistic regression. The results revealed that 23.5% of the respondents had multiple sexual partners in the last 30 days. The binary logistic regression model showed that male [OR=7.4, 95% CI: 2.9-18.7]; being a member of students’ organisational structures [OR=3.4, 95% CI: 1.3-8.7] and younger age at sexual debut [OR=3.5, 95% CI: 1.3-9.6] were positively associated with multiple sexual partners. Furthermore, significant associations were found between multiple sexual partners, alcohol consumption [OR=2.9, 95% CI: 1.2-7.1), and being uncertain about their cultural perceptions [OR=3.4, 95% CI: 1.2-9.7] on multiple sexual partners. However, high religiosity [OR=0.4, 95% CI: 0.1-0.9)] was negatively associated with multiple sexual partners. Given that we found that a significant number of students were engaged in risky sexual behaviour, innovative behavioural change is expected by emphasising sexual fidelity, good values and responsible consumption alcohol to first year students as part of orientation package. Promotion of condom use should be intensified to protect first year students. Finally, since religiosity is an important practice in the daily life of the study population, integrating the religiosity components into sexual risk-prevention interventions could prove beneficial. (Afr J Reprod Health 2021; 25[5]: 69-78).

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