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Abstract

Objective To describe numbers of opposite-sex partners, experiences of different heterosexual behaviours, and recent heterosexual experiences among a representative sample of Australian adults.

MethodsComputer-assisted telephone interviews were completed by a representative sample of 10,173 men and 9,134 women aged 16–59 years from all States and Territories. The response rate was 73.1% (69.4% among men and 77.6% among women).

Results: Men reported more sexual partners than women over their lifetime, in the past five years and in the past year. 15.1% of men and 8.5% of women reported multiple sexual partners in the past year. Reporting multiple opposite-sex partners was significantly associated with being younger, identifying as bisexual, living in major cities, having a lower income, having a blue-collar occupation, and not being married. All but a handful of respondents' most recent heterosexual encounters involved vaginal intercourse and condoms were used in one-fifth of these sexual encounters. Anal intercourse was very uncommon during respondents' most recent heterosexual encounters.

Conclusion Patterns of heterosexual experience in Australia are similar to those found in studies of representative samples in other countries.

Implications: There may be a need for interventions targeted at people with multiple sexual partners to promote safer sexual behaviour and to reduce the likelihood of transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.