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Sex Health. 2017 Aug;14(4):331-337. doi: 10.1071/SH16160.

When a relationship is imperative, will young women knowingly place their sexual health at risk? A sample of African American adolescent girls in the juvenile justice system.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, 1600 Clifton Road NE, Mailstop E-59, Atlanta, GA 30333, USA.
Emory University, Rollins School of Public Health, Department of Behavioral Sciences & Health Education, 1518 Clifton Road, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.



HIV and other sexually transmissible infections (HIV/STIs) are significant contributors to adolescent girls' morbidity in the US. Risks for HIV/STIs are increased among adolescent girls involved in the juvenile justice system, and African American adolescent girls comprise nearly 50% of adolescent girls in detention centres. Although HIV prevention programs focus on HIV/STI knowledge, increased knowledge may not be sufficient to reduce sexual risk. The present study examined the interactive effects of HIV/STI knowledge and the importance of being in a relationship (a relationship imperative) on sexual risk behaviours in a sample of detained African American adolescent girls.


In all, 188 African American adolescent girls, 13-17 years of age, were recruited from a short-term detention facility in Atlanta, Georgia, and completed assessments on sexual risk behaviours, relationship characteristics, HIV/STI knowledge and several psychosocial risk factors.


When girls endorsed a relationship imperative, higher HIV/STI knowledge was associated with low partner communication self-efficacy, inconsistent condom use and unprotected sex, when controlling for demographics and self-esteem.


Young girls with high HIV/STI knowledge may have placed themselves at risk for HIV/STIs given the importance and value they place on being in a relationship. Contextual factors should be considered when developing interventions.


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