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Age at Sexual Initiation and Sexual and Health Risk Behaviors Among Jamaican Adolescents and Young Adults

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Current policies limit access to sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents younger than 16 years in Jamaica. Using data from a national survey, we explored the relationship between age at sexual initiation and subsequent sexual risk behaviors in a random sample of 837 Jamaican adolescents and young adults aged 15–24 years. In the sample overall, 21.0% had not yet had sex. Among the 661 sexually active participants, the mean age at first sex was 14.7 years. High percentages of sexually active youth reported engaging in risk behaviors such as inconsistent condom use (58.8%), multiple sex partners (44.5%), and transactional sex (43.0%). Age of sexual initiation for males was unrelated to subsequent sexual risk behaviors. However, earlier sexual debut for females was associated with their number of partners during the preceding year. Findings underscore the potential benefits of access to sexual and reproductive education and services at earlier ages than current policies allow. Interventions before and during the period of sexual debut may reduce sexual risk for Jamaican adolescents and young adults.

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The 2012 Knowledge, Attitude, Behavior and Practices (KABP) survey was completed with funds received by the Jamaica Ministry of Health from the Global Fund. We thank the Ministry of Health for providing access to data from this study. We would like to thank Maxine Wedderburn and Deborah Bourne of Hope Enterprises Limited for leading the implementation of the KABP. We wish to acknowledge the support from the University of California, San Francisco’s International Traineeships in AIDS Prevention Studies (ITAPS), U.S. NIMH, R25MH064712, and the Starr Foundation Scholarship Fund.


The 2012 KABP survey was supported with funds received by the Jamaica Ministry of Health from The Global Fund.

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Correspondence to Sharlene Beckford Jarrett.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Jarrett, S.B., Udell, W., Sutherland, S. et al. Age at Sexual Initiation and Sexual and Health Risk Behaviors Among Jamaican Adolescents and Young Adults. AIDS Behav 22 (Suppl 1), 57–64 (2018).

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