Given the high rates of infection among urban young adults, STD and HIV testing promotion is a public health priority. To inform future testing efforts, lifetime and recent testing behaviors of this population within casual and serious relationships should be better understood.
Data from a 2007–2008 study conducted in select neighborhoods in Hartford and Philadelphia were used to examine self-reported STD and HIV testing behaviors and attitudes among 483 sexually active black and Puerto Rican young adults aged 18–25. Multivariate ordered logit regression analyses were conducted to assess characteristics associated with lifetime number of STD tests.
More than eight in 10 participants reported having been tested for STDs, and a similar proportion for HIV, most of them multiple times. Nineteen percent had ever had an STD diagnosis. A majority—86%—perceived their risk of STD infection in the next year as “not at all likely.” Sixty-one percent of those in serious relationships reported that both partners had been tested, compared with 25% of those in casual relationships. Characteristics associated with higher lifetime number of STD tests were being female (odds ratio, 2.2), being from Philadelphia (2.5), being black (1.5), having lived with two or more serious partners (1.7) and having ever received an STD diagnosis (2.3).
Despite their risks, participants did not perceive themselves to be at risk of STDs. However, they did report testing repeatedly. Testing was highly acceptable, particularly within serious relationships. Questions about the timing of testing initiation and repeat testing merit attention for the benefits of widespread testing to be fully realized.
Marion W. Carter is behavioral scientist, Joan Marie Kraft is behavioral scientist, and Kendra Hatfield-Timajchy is health scientist, all in the Division of Reproductive Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta. Linda Hock-Long is director of research, Family Planning Council, Philadelphia. Matthew Hogben is behavioral scientist, Division of Sexually Transmitted Disease Prevention, CDC.