Racial and ethnic health disparities are an important issue in the United States. The extent to which racial and ethnic differences in STDs among youth are related to differences in socioeconomic characteristics and risky sexual behaviors requires investigation.
Data from three waves of the National Survey of Adolescent Males (1988, 1990–1991 and 1995) were used to examine 1,880 young men’s history of STDs and their patterns and trajectories of sexual risk behavior during adolescence and early adulthood. Multinomial and logistic regression analyses were conducted to test whether racial and ethnic differences in STDs are due to the lower socioeconomic status and higher levels of risky sexual behavior among minority groups.
Young black men reported the highest rates of sexual risk and STDs at each wave and across waves. Compared with white men, black and Latino men had higher odds of maintaining high sexual risk and increasing sexual risk over time (odds ratios, 1.7–1.9). In multivariate analyses controlling for socioeconomic characteristics, black men were more likely than white men to have a history of STDs (3.2–5.0); disparities persisted in analyses controlling for level of risky sexual behavior.
Race and ethnicity continue to differentiate young black and Latino men from their white peers in terms of STDs. Prevention programs that target different racial and ethnic subgroups of adolescent men and address both individual- and contextual-level factors are needed to curb STD incidence.
Jacinda K. Dariotis is assistant scientist, Nan M. Astone is associate professor and Freya L. Sonenstein is professor and director—all with the Center for Adolescent Health, Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore. Frangiscos Sifakis is assistant scientist, Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Joseph H. Pleck is professor, Department of Human and Community Development, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.