Women seven times more likely than men to admit sexually acquired infection

Women are seven times more likely than men to admit to a partner that they have a sexually acquired infection, reveals research in Sexually Transmitted Infections. The findings were irrespective of age or type of infection.

The findings are based on three population surveys of sexual behaviour carried out in France in the early to mid 1990s. Two of the surveys comprised a total of around 7000 adults; the third dealt with just over 6000 adolescents from 15 upwards. All those surveyed were asked if they had had a sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the past five years, and in the case of adolescents, whether they had ever been infected.

Forty five adolescents and 179 adults reported a history of STIs. Nine out of 10 adults said that they had told previous partners about any STIs; but one in four adolescents had not.

But the information was selectively relayed. Less than 8 per cent of people in the first survey said they had not informed their main partner, but three quarters had not told ‘other’ partners. In the second survey almost all of the respondents said they had not told any of their previous partners, although most said they had told their current partner. Almost a third of adolescents had failed to notify current partners.

There was a striking gender difference in the willingness to admit to having an STI: 14 per cent of men, compared with just 2 per cent of women, had not told their main partner. Among the adolescents, half the boys did not tell their partner; but fewer than one in 10 girls did not tell. Those aged 16 and under were least likely to admit that they had an STI.

The US Centers for Disease Control recommends informing any sexual partner in the two months preceding diagnosis of chlamydia or gonorrhea, or the last sexual partner if more than 60 days have elapsed.

“These results are all the more worrying in that they probably underestimate the true situation,” conclude the authors, adding that many of the respondents might have said they had told their main or current partner when, in fact, they had not. Partner notification is extremely important they say, because many STIs are symptomless, particularly in women.

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