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Delaying sexual initiation has been promoted as one of the methods of decreasing risks of HIV among young people. In traditional countries, such as Ethiopia, retaining virginity until marriage is the norm.
However, no one has examined the impact of this traditional norm on sexual behaviour and risk of HIV in marriage. This study examined the effect of virginity norm on having sex before marriage and sexual behaviour after marriage among rural Ethiopian youth. We did a cross-sectional survey in 9 rural and 1 urban area using a probabilistic sample of 3, youth, 15—24 years of age. Univariate analysis was used to assess associations between virginity norm and gender stratified by area, and between sexual behaviour and marital status.
We applied Kaplan-Meier and Cox regression analysis to estimate age at sexual debut and assessed the predictors of premarital sex among the never-married using SPSS. We found that maintaining virginity is still a way of securing marriage for girls, especially in rural areas; the odds of belief and intention to marry a virgin among boys was 3—4 times higher among rural young males. As age increased, the likelihood of remaining a virgin decreased. There was no significant difference between married and unmarried young people in terms of number of partners and visiting commercial sex workers.
Married men were twice more likely to have multiple sexual partners than their female counterparts. Although virginity norms help delay age at sexual debut among rural Ethiopian youth, and thus reduces vulnerability to sexually transmitted infections and HIV infection, vulnerability among females may increase after marriage due to unprotected multiple risky sexual behaviours by spouses.
HIV and AIDS have been a threat to Ethiopia since the mids [ 1 ] and different efforts have been put in place to alleviate the problem. However, the prevalence among young adults is high. In , the unadjusted prevalence of HIV among rural youth, 15—24 years of age, was 2. Behavioural change interventions should focus on causes that put a population at risk [ 4 ].