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Low education levels are associated with early age of sexual debut, drug use and risky sexual behaviours among young Indigenous Australians

Handan Wand , Joanne Bryant , Heather Worth , Marian Pitts , John Kaldor , Dea Delaney-Thiele , James Ward


Background: Earlier age at sexual debut is associated with drug/alcohol use, risky sexual behaviors and sexually transmitted infections (STI). Methods: 2,320 young indigenous Australians were included in this study. Majority of study participants had sex for the first time when they were 14 years or younger (79% and 67% for males and females). Results: More than 80% of the participants were categorised as being in the high risk category for the combined sexual risk factors (i.e. not using condoms, drunk or high at last sexual act, or 3+ sexual partners in past year). There was a linear decreasing trend between the proportion of males and females who had less than high school education and age at first sex (Ptrend<0.001). Compared to the highest quintile of the age at first sexual debut (18+ years), those in the bottom quintile (<15 years) were less likely to have completed high school (63% vs 32%, 68% vs 26% for males and females respectively, Ptrend<0.001, both). Conclusions: Our study suggests that sex education and STI prevention should start early when targeting Indigenous young people, with age appropriate messages. Sex education should be comprehensive, and address individual risk behaviours, sexual agency and societal vulnerability to not only delay sexual debut but to emphasise the importance of STI prevention through condom use, which clearly already works to a certain extent with this group.

SH17039  Accepted 09 August 2017

© CSIRO 2017