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Perceptions of sexual partner safety Masaro, Cynthia Louise

Abstract

This methodological study was designed to examine the degree to which relationship characteristics and sexual partner attributes influenced heterosexual adults' assessments of their sexual partner's STI/HIV risk, and how this assessment affected condom use. A secondary aim of the study was to examine relationships among factors that may have influenced an individual's STI/HIV safety beliefs, his/her own perceived STI/HIV risk, frequency of condom use, and demographic and background factors. A cross-sectional correlational survey design was used in this study. The study was conducted in the fall of 2004 at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control's Sexually Transmitted Disease Clinic. Systematic nonprobability sampling was used resulting in 317 clients who were eligible and agreed to participate in the study. An investigator designed structured self-report questionnaire was developed and used to collect data for this study. The survey included questions to assess the endorsement of STI/HIV safety beliefs when considering sexual partners in general and when considering a specific sexual partner. Questions also addressed an individual's own perceived STI/HIV risk, perceived STI/HIV risk of a specific partner, general condom use, and first time condom use with a specific partner. Descriptive statistics were used to describe the level of endorsement of STI/HIV safety beliefs. Multiple linear regression was used to determine the influence of demographic and background factors on STI/HIV safety beliefs. Bivariate correlation examined the relationships between perceived STI/HIV risk and condom use. STI/HIV safety beliefs findings indicated that a high percentage of individuals are relying on relationship characteristics and partner attributes to determine STI/HIV safety when considering sexual partners in general and when considering a specific sexual partner. Those beliefs most frequently endorsed were related to perceptions of familiarity, trust, and the feeling that one "knew" the partner's sexual history. When comparing the level of endorsement of beliefs in relation to sexual partners in general and in relation to a specific sexual partner, significant differences were found suggesting that individual beliefs are influenced by context and the dynamics of the social relationship. Results of two multiple regressions showed that age, general condom use, number of sexual partners in the last six months, and relationship status were significantly related to STI/HIV safety beliefs when considering sexual partners in general. However, no significant demographic and background predictors were identified when considering STI/HIV safety beliefs in relation to a specific partner. In considering the emerging literature that suggests the perceived STI/HIV risk of the partner is more influential than an individual's own perceived STI/HIV risk, it is surprising that own perceived STI/HIV risk was the only variable significantly associated with STI/HIV safety beliefs and condom use. These findings indicated that as an individual's own perceived STI/HIV risk decreased, endorsement of STI/HIV safety beliefs increased. Moreover, as own perceived STI/HIV risk increased, condom use also increased.

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