Date: 08 Feb 2014

Awareness of sexually transmitted infection and protection methods among university students in Ireland

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Abstract

Background

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a major public health challenge. In 2012, young people (20–29 years) represented 59.1 % of STI notifications in Ireland. In studying awareness and knowledge of STIs, methods of protection, and sexual practices of young people, many researchers have accessed university students.

Aims

Survey of 419 university students, investigating awareness and knowledge of sexual health and STIs, and risky sexual behaviour as a surrogate indicator of sexual activity in that age group.

Methods

Self-administered questionnaire on students’ demographics, sexual activity, knowledge, attitude and awareness of sexual health and STIs.

Results

419 students responded: 56.1 % female and 78.1 % undergraduate students. 74.2 % remembered receiving sexual education in secondary school and 84 % of those found it useful, but only 51.8 % remembered education regarding STIs. 44.4 % believed that STIs do not pose a long-term health risk. 90.7 % of respondents were sexually active, and 10.3 % had contracted STIs. 94.7 % of sexually active students used contraception, with condoms most frequently used. 69.1 % of those active had experienced penetrative vaginal sex, 86.4 % oral sex and 19.2 % anal sex without a condom in the prior 2 years. Condom usage initiated by women was primarily for STI prevention.

Conclusion

Young people do not always have the information needed for them to take responsibility for their sexual health. In this study, university-provided medical and information resources were available, but large numbers of students were unaware or uncomfortable accessing them. Future work is needed to determine factors contributing to effective communication of sexual health information to young people.