Association Between Early Sexual Debut and New HIV Infections Among Adolescents and Young Adults in 11 African Countries

AIDS Behav. 2024 Jul;28(7):2444-2453. doi: 10.1007/s10461-024-04343-w. Epub 2024 Jun 15.


We investigated the association between early sexual debut and HIV infection among adolescents and young adults. Analyzing data from nationally representative Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (PHIA) surveys in 11 African countries, the research employed a multivariate logistic regression model to assess the relationship between the early sexual debut and new HIV infections in the age group of 10-24 years. The results revealed a significant and robust association, indicating that young individuals who experienced early sexual debut were approximately 2.65 times more likely to contract HIV than those who did not, even after accounting for other variables. These findings align with prior research suggesting that early initiation of sexual activity may increase vulnerability to HIV infection due to factors such as biological susceptibility and risky behaviors like low condom use and multiple sexual partners. The implications of these findings for HIV prevention strategies are substantial, suggesting that interventions aimed at delaying sexual debut could be an effective component in reducing HIV risk for this population. Targeted sex education programs that address the risks of early sexual debut may play a pivotal role in these prevention efforts. By employing a comprehensive approach, there is a possibility to advance efforts towards ending AIDS by 2030.

Keywords: Adolescents and young adults; African countries; Early sexual debut; New HIV infection; PHIA surveys.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Africa / epidemiology
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Condoms / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • HIV Infections* / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sexual Behavior* / statistics & numerical data
  • Sexual Partners*
  • Young Adult