This study intends to evaluate whether the belief that condoms are 100% effective in protecting against HIV infection is associated with sexual risk behaviours among youth.
A cross-sectional study was performed in representative samples of high-school students in the Philippines, El Salvador and Peru. Participants completed a self-administered questionnaire. Students were asked about the risk of HIV transmission if one has sex using condoms. They were also asked to indicate whether they had ever had sexual relations and whether they used a condom in their first sexual relation. The sample was composed of 8994 students, aged 13-18.
One out of seven adolescents believed condoms are 100% effective (safe-sex believers). Those adolescents were 82% more likely to have had sex than those without such belief, after adjusting for confounders (OR=1.82; 95% CI 1.51 to 2.21). On the contrary, no association was found between risk perception and condom use. Subgroup and sensitivity analyses produced similar results.
This is, to the best of our knowledge, the first study conducted specifically to evaluate this phenomenon and that has used the same questionnaire and the same data collection protocol in three different developing countries from Asia, Central and South America. These results reasonably suggest that there could be an association between safe sex beliefs and sexual initiation. Longitudinal studies are needed to better understand this possible association as it could influence how to better promote sexual health.