Many People Who Know, Trust Sex Partners Assume Low Risk of HIV, Other STIs, Study Finds
Many people who know their sexual partners well consider themselves to be at a low risk of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, according to a study published in the June issue of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Reuters reports.
For the study, Cindy Masaro of the University of British Columbia and colleagues distributed questionnaires to 317 men and women who were attending an STI clinic for the first time and had not yet been diagnosed with an STI. The questionnaire asked whether people could be "pretty sure" a sex partner was "safe" in certain circumstances, such as if they knew the partner well, knew the partner's friends or believed they could trust the partner.
The study found that people often considered subjective measures in determining whether a sex partner would put them at increased risk for HIV and other STIs. Many people determined their partner's "safety" based on how long they had known the partner or on how intelligent or well-educated the partner was. In addition, 70% of participants said they probably would consider a partner "safe" if the partner generally was trustworthy.
According to the researchers, earlier studies have found that although many people are "confident in their assessments of their partner's character," their knowledge of their partner's STI risk often is inaccurate. The researchers said that interventions that "target assumptions of safety and dispel incorrect beliefs about the selection of safe partners [are] needed to promote safer-sexual behavior" and reduce the risk of STI transmission (Reuters, 6/25).
An abstract of the study is available online.