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Abstract

Background  Adolescents and young adults are at increased risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Knowledge of STI prevalence and risk factors are essential tools to elaborate preventive strategies. However, internationally reported studies on epidemiology of STIs among the youth in Russia are mainly lacking.

Objectives  To ascertain sexual behaviours, knowledge and attitudes about safe sex and prevalence and correlates with STIs in attendees of youth clinics in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Methods  A total of 301 women and 131 men, who self-referred for STI testing, completed a questionnaire and were screened for Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Mycoplasma genitalium, and Trichomonas vaginalis using nucleic acid amplification tests.

Results  The overall STI prevalence was 16.9%, and similar in the female patients and male patients (15.6% and 19.8% respectively). C. trachomatis, N. gonorrhoeae, M. genitalium and T. vaginalis were detected in 13%, 2.5%, 4.6% and 1.2% of the attendees respectively. The men displayed riskier sexual behaviours and worse knowledge and attitudes regarding safe sex compared to the women, with the most distinguishing features being younger age at first intercourse (< 0.0005), higher numbers of sex partners during lifetime (= 0.001) and latest 6 months (< 0.0005), more frequently consuming alcohol (< 0.0005), poorer knowledge of STI/HIV prevention measures (< 0.0005), and less positive attitudes towards safe sex (= 0.001). However, no significant predictors of STI positivity were found in the men. In the women, the strongest predictors of STI positivity were young age (15–19 years) and multiple sex partners (≥2) during latest 6 months.

Conclusions  The overall prevalence of STIs among users of STI services at youth clinics in St. Petersburg was high. Comprehensive epidemiological data on STI prevalence and sexual behaviour correlates are necessary to initiate new and strengthen existing STI prevention programmes for the youth, in Russia as well as in many other settings.