• social cognitive theory;
  • self-efficacy;
  • college students;
  • condom use;
  • sexual behaviour;
  • communication;
  • sex-based communication;
  • health education

Correlates of safer sex communication among college students

The purpose of this study was to examine factors that are thought to promote communication about safer sex and HIV among college students in the United States of America and to determine the extent to which communication about safer sex is important in the use of condoms. A better understanding of factors associated with safer sex communication can be helpful in developing HIV and STD prevention programmes for college students. Following approval from the institutional review boards of the six participating colleges and universities, researchers collected data from a random sample of students. The study included participant responses if participants were 18–25 years of age, single and sexually active. For the sample of 1349 participants, the mean age was 20·6 years. Sixty-three per cent of the sample was female, 50·5% white, 42·3% African-American, and the remainder of other ethnic groups. Over 50% of respondents reported frequent condom use, with 28% noting that they used a condom every time and 30·6% reporting condom use almost every time they had sex. Only 9·6% indicated that they never used a condom. The results of hierarchical multiple regression analysis revealed that the perception of quality of general communication with parents, the perception of a partner's attitude towards communication, communication self-efficacy, and communication outcome expectancies, were associated with safer sex communication. However, the association between safer sex communication and condom use was weak, suggesting that other factors excluded from this study are important in determining condom use for this sample of respondents. The findings provide some implications for HIV interventions. Interventions that enhance self-efficacy and positive outcome expectancies related to communication about safer sex are likely to foster discussion with a sexual partner. However, they might not lead to actual condom use.