Correlates of Sexual Initiation among Belizeans: Implications for HIV Risk
Jennifer L Simmons, University of California, Los Angeles
The timing of sexual debut is an important transition in a person’s reproductive trajectory, with potentially grave consequences such as unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases including HIV and even infertility. Previous research have implicated early sexual debut in developing subsequent risky sex-related behaviors. Coital debut is a salient issue in developing countries with large young populations such as Belize. Despite being the least populated country in Central America, it has the unflattering distinction of having the highest HIV prevalence in the region. However, little is known about the dynamics of sexual initiation and its attendant HIV risk behaviors among Belizeans. The study will address the following questions: Is the timing of sexual debut in Belize influenced by selected demographic factors? Are Belizeans who report earlier sexual initiation more likely than others to develop and sustain patterns of sexual behaviors that continue to place them at risk for HIV?