Context: Iran's culture and religion prohibit sexual contact prior to marriage. Due to the sensitivity of the topic, little is known about the sexual activity of unmarried adolescent males or about their knowledge of, and attitudes toward, sexuality and reproductive health.
Methods: A population-based study of 1,385 males aged 15-18 in Tehran was conducted using a self-administered questionnaire. Participants were questioned about their beliefs and knowledge regarding reproductive health, and asked whether they had engaged in sexual activity. Bivariate and multivariate analyses were performed to identify factors associated with sexual knowledge, attitudes and behavior.
Results: Twenty-eight percent of the sample reported having engaged in sexual activity. Sexual experience was associated with older age, access to satellite television, alcohol consumption and permissive attitudes toward sex. Substantial proportions of respondents held misconceptions regarding condoms, STIs and reproductive physiology. Attitudes toward premarital sex were more permissive among respondents who were older, were not in school, had work experience, had access to the Internet or satellite television, lived separately from their parents, or reported having used alcohol, cigarettes or drugs.
Conclusion: The relatively high prevalence of sexual activity and the lack of knowledge regarding STIs and contraceptives pose a significant threat to the sexual and reproductive health of adolescent males in Iran. Programs are needed to provide adolescents with the information and skills to make safe sexual decisions.