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AIDS Care. 1996 Aug;8(4):443-52.

Sexual debut and predictors of condom use among secondary school students in Arusha, Tanzania.

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  • 1Department of Educational Psychology, Faculty of Education, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.


A cross-sectional survey was conducted using interviews among 852 students attending seven secondary schools in the Arusha region, Northern Tanzania, to predict determinants of sexual debut and recent condom use among students. Schools were sampled according to location, school size and ownership criteria. Subjects were randomly sampled within grade-level and gender through use of class registers. Altogether, 528 students were sexually active. Males were more likely than females to report their sexual debut status (82.0% versus 33.3%; OR = 8.78; 95% CI: 6.17-12.49). Among males, incidence of sexual debut increased with grade-level, but decreased according to religious affiliation. None of the socio-demographic predictor variables used in this study had a significant association with sexual debut among females when age was controlled for. Of the sexually active students, 26.8% reported having ever used a condom and 21.5% reported use of condoms during their most recent sexual encounter. Late sexual debut, prolonged duration of dating before intercourse and having only one sex partner were significantly associated with increased condom use during the most recent occasion. Condom use increased with levels of education, but gender was not significantly linked to increased condom use. Condom use was particularly infrequent among casual sex partners. We observed a marked gender difference among students with respect to their sexual debut status, but no such difference was found in relation to condom use.


A cross-sectional survey conducted among 528 sexually active secondary school students in Northern Tanzania identified marked gender differences in terms of predictors of sexual debut status but not in relation to condom use. A sexual behavior survey was conducted in seven secondary schools (two urban, three semi-urban, and two rural) in Arusha in 1993. At least 20% of students at each school were randomly selected (after stratification by gender and grade level) for participation, resulting in a sample of 849 students (501 males and 348 females); 411 of these males and 115 females reported they were sexually active. Sexual debut status among male students was positively associated with increasing age, school forms three and four, and Roman Catholic religious affiliation; among female students, age was the only significant predictor. 141 (26.8%) of sexually active students had ever used condoms, and 111 (21.5%) had used them at last intercourse. No gender differences were observed in condom use. Condom use at most recent intercourse was significantly associated with higher level of education, delayed sexual debut, prolonged duration of dating before intercourse, and having only one sexual partner.

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