SRF055: Take the test before you do the rest: Number of sexual partners and STI testing among students at a Canadian University
Sophie Sawler; Madison Pendleton, Student; Michael Cardinal-Aucoin, PhD, MSc; Kristen Booth; Carolyn Arbanas, MD, CCFP, CCFP-EM; Stefania Moro, PhD
Context: The rate of STIs among university-aged students has increased dramatically in recent years. In Canada, up to 80% of 17-24 year olds are sexually active and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA reported that 1 in 4 individuals between 14-19 yrs. has an STI. Increased testing has been shown to be an effective strategy to reduce STI rates in targeted populations and to improve sexual health outcomes. Objective: To assess the relationship between number of sexual partners and frequency of testing. Study Design: Mixed-methods approach combining a structured interview and cross-sectional survey incorporating multiple question types. Setting: St. Francis Xavier University campus in rural Nova Scotia, Canada. Population Studied: Students registered at St. Francis Xavier University during the 2019-2020 academic year. Outcome Measures: Statistical analyses of quantitative data were performed by SPSS and included t-tests, Pearson’s correlation, and ANOVA, as appropriate. Results: A majority of respondents (n=350) reported being sexually active, with 11% having 1-2 sexual partners (SPs), 37% having 3-5 SPs, 29% having 5-10 SPs, and 23% having more than 10 SPs. Only a third reported being tested for STIs (15% every few years and 16% every new partner) while the remaining two thirds reported never being tested. STI testing was significantly higher among female students compared to males, especially those with more partners. Overall, having more sexual partners correlated with an increased frequency of STI testing (r = 0.63). A third of students did not contact past partners after having been diagnosed with an STI. Conclusions: The increased risk of contracting/transmitting STIs as a consequence of sex with multiple partners and the low frequency of STI testing among university students likely leads to increased STI rates in this population. Moreover, it has been reported that condom use is inadequate in this population, at least partially because many mistakenly employ it exclusively for contraceptive purposes. Improved sexual health education in general and increased awareness and visibility of sexual healthcare resources available to university students may help decrease STI rates in this group.