AGE AT FIRST SEX AND LIFETIME SEXUAL PARTNERS

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ABSTRACT

The literature suggests that globally adolescents initiate sex before age 15. In Ghana, young females initiate sex relatively earlier than males. Studies indicate that the age at which one experiences first sex in itself is not the problem, but rather the challenges resulting from the numerous health and social implications associated with it. One outcome in the literature for early sexual activity is a high number of sexual partners which is associated with a risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, STIs and encountering unintended pregnancies. This study examined the relationship between age at first sex and the number of lifetime sexual partners of men and women in Ghana (ages 15-49) using the 2014 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey men’s and women’s datasets. The study also factored in psychosocial and behavioural factors and assessed their influence on number of lifetime sexual partners. The sample consisted of 7,720 females and 2,993 males.

Three levels of analysis were conducted, namely univariate, bivariate and multivariate analyses. At the bivariate analysis stage, a statistically significant association was found between sex, type of place of residence, respondent’s age, education, religion, ethnicity, marital status and the dependent variable, lifetime sexual partners. Multivariate analyses showed the main independent variable (age at first sex) and other variables such as age, educational level, working status, ethnicity, marital status, STI experience and HIV attitudes were significantly associated with lifetime sexual partners. Some factors differed for males and females.

The findings reveal that early onset of sex increases one’s number of lifetime sexual partners, and conversely, a delay in first sex reduces a person’s number of lifetime sexual partners. The study recommends the prioritization of policies targeted at delaying sexual debut to reduce adolescents’ exposure to multiple sexual partnerships.