Factors associated with HPV-associated sexual risk behaviors among sexually active college students

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Journal of behavioral medicine


High-risk sexual behavior is the primary risk factor for the acquisition and persistence of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and the development of HPV-associated diseases including cancer. Incidence of HPV infection is high among individuals in their late teens and early 20s. Thus, college students represent a historically high-risk group for HPV infection yet are also a group with the ability to independently access HPV vaccination for HPV prevention. To inform future interventions, we examined factors associated with HPV-associated risky sexual behaviors among sexually active college students. Data (N = 741) were from an anonymous online survey distributed to students at a public Midwestern university in 2021. The outcomes were HPV-associated sexual risk behaviors-number of oral or vaginal sexual partners [high (≥ 5) or low (< 5)] and age of oral or vaginal sexual debut [early (< 18 years) or late (≥ 18 years)]. Multivariable logistic regression models estimated the association between HPV-associated risky sexual behaviors and several predictors including age, gender, relationship status, academic level, country of birth, and rural-urban status. Among sexually active students, approximately 47% and 41% had a high number of lifetime vaginal and oral partners, respectively. Among the same group, 60% and 64% had early vaginal and oral sexual debut. Students who were single and dating (aOR = 1.93; 95% CI = 1.21, 3.08) or single and not dating (2.11; 1.28, 3.48) were more likely to have a high number of vaginal lifetime partners compared with married students. Single (vs. married) students were also about twice as likely to have a high number of oral lifetime partners. Relative to graduate students, freshmen/sophomores were more likely to have an early vaginal (2.44; 1.45, 4.11) and oral (2.14; 1.26, 3.63) sexual debut. Interventions tailored to college freshmen/sophomores and unmarried students should encourage students to receive the HPV vaccine for prevention of future HPV-associated diseases.

Medical Subject Headings

Female; Adolescent; Humans; Papillomavirus Infections; Sexual Behavior; Sexual Partners; Risk Factors; Students; Risk-Taking

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ePub ahead of print





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