Forced Sexual Initiation and Early Sexual Debut and Associated Risk Factors and Health Problems Among Adolescent Girls and Young Women - Violence Against Children and Youth Surveys, Nine PEPFAR Countries, 2007-2018

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2021 Nov 26;70(47):1629-1634. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm7047a2.


Adolescent girls and young women aged 13-24 years are disproportionately affected by HIV in sub-Saharan Africa (1), resulting from biologic, behavioral, and structural* factors, including violence. Girls in sub-Saharan Africa also experience sexual violence at higher rates than do boys (2), and women who experience intimate partner violence have 1.3-2.0 times the odds of acquiring HIV infection, compared with those who do not (3). Violence Against Children and Youth Survey (VACS) data during 2007-2018 from nine countries funded by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) were analyzed to estimate prevalence and assess factors associated with early sexual debut and forced sexual initiation. Among adolescent girls and young women aged 13-24 years who ever had sex, the prevalence of lifetime sexual violence ranged from 12.5% to 49.3%, and forced sexual initiation ranged from 14.7% to 38.9%; early sexual debut among adolescent girls and young women aged 16-24 years ranged from 14.4% to 40.1%. In multiple logistic regression models, forced sexual initiation was associated with being unmarried, violence victimization, risky sexual behaviors, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and poor mental health. Early sexual debut was associated with lower education, marriage, ever witnessing parental intimate partner violence during childhood, risky sexual behaviors, poor mental health, and less HIV testing. Comprehensive violence and HIV prevention programming is needed to delay sexual debut and protect adolescent girls and young women from forced sex.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Developing Countries
  • Female
  • Global Health / statistics & numerical data
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Offenses / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult