Coping with the threat of AIDS: Psychosocial predictors of precautionary sexual behavior
Considerable research has been conducted on the behavioral dynamics of the spread of AIDS. Modifying behavior is acknowledged as the principal intervention in reducing HIV infection. However, AIDS education and prevention programs, which have promoted awareness and safer sexual behavior, have not been very successful because many young adults and adolescents still engage in unprotected sexual contact. Factors that are associated with unsafe sexual practices include use of defensive strategies, substance abuse, impulsiveness, and external locus of control, indicating that condom use could be associated with adjustment. However, few studies have attempted to investigate the psychosocial factors involved with precautionary sexual behavior. For this study, undergraduate students (N = 215) completed the CPI-R, the Condom Attitude Scale (CAS), and a demographic survey. It was hypothesized that those individuals who accepted condoms for potential use, used condoms in a consistent manner, and held positive attitudes about condoms, would have higher scores on the CPI-R, which would suggest a higher level of adjustment. The vast majority of the participants of this study were sexually active, but only one in five used a condom on a consistent basis. Consequently, a majority of the study participants were at possible risk for HIV infection. The CPI-R did not predict who was sexually active or subsequent condom use, but it was able to predict those individuals who reported having multiple sexual partners, thereby demonstrating good ability to identify those people who were engaging in high-risk sexual behavior. The CPI-R predicted positive condom attitudes, and five of the seven CAS subscales. In addition, positive condom attitudes predicted condom acquisition. Possible clinical implications include identification of those individuals at high risk for contracting the HIV virus.