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Tertiary students have multiple sex partners — survey

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Sunday Observer staff reporter dunkleya@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, February 09, 2014    

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THE National Family Planning Board (NFPB) has registered concern over data which showed that a number of students in tertiary institutions have resorted to having multiple sex partners in order to fund their education.

According to the 2012 HIV/AIDS Knowledge Attitudes and Behaviour Survey, multiple partnerships, which have continued to rank among the leading risk factors in Jamaica, registered a two per cent increase overall between 2008 and 2012, with a significant increase among the 15 to 24 age group.

It said that the prevailing harsh economic climate has continued to impact the HIV epidemic, making the young increasingly vulnerable to high risk practices.

The data said that the overall increase in multiple partnerships was also linked to an observed increase in visiting and casual relationships. It said over a half or 52.4 per cent of those multiple relationships are for a one-year period.

According to the researchers, such relationships have traditionally been considered even more high risk than the more longer term relationships as among them would be the casual one-off encounters. It, however, said that persons reporting these relationships were significantly more likely to have also used a condom in their last such encounter than persons in longer term relationships.

It said of concern is the observation that while more risky situations of sexual activity have been reported, the ideal of consistent condom use has not increased. In the meantime, it said that the practice of transactional sex which is widely recognised as one of the most risky sexual encounters as it involves the exchange of gifts or money for sex, is "unfortunately inching upwards and is particularly so among the youth 15 to 24 years, as also in both cohabiting and non-cohabiting relationships.

It said that even more disturbing is that only 50 per cent were protecting themselves by using a condom all, or most of the time, while 69 per cent of those who did not then use a condom had no intention of doing so.

Speaking at last Thursday's Jamaica Observer Press Club, Chair of the National Family Planning Board Dr Sandra Knight said the rate of multi-partner relationships in Jamaica had increased in the last 10 years both in men and women.

"This goes through all the socio-economic groups of the society. A recent study indicated that even persons in our tertiary institutions are having a significant number of multi-partners in an effort to cover economic needs," Dr Knight stated.

She said that this revelation was a concern of the National Family Planning Board.

"It emphasises the importance of getting the word (about safe sex practices) out to everybody. We also want to have a focus on sexual health education, primarily in the home, in the school, everywhere that persons gather," she told the Sunday Observer news team.

Jamaica, the third largest island in the Caribbean, has an estimated 32,000 persons living with HIV.

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