BMC PUBLIC HEALTH;BMC Public Health;05-Dec;2013;13;
Background: Young people in Laos are more vulnerable to STIs/HIV due to their sexual risk behaviours, low perceptions of risk and their socio-cultural environments. Perceived risk of contracting STIs/HIV is crucial for the assessment of their risk regarding their actual sexual risk behaviors. Thus, the objective of this paper is to explore perceptions of risk related to STIs/HIV and identify factors associated with this perceived risk among adolescents. Methods: This was a cross sectional study of sexually experienced adolescents aged 14 to 19 years old in the Luangnamtha province. The multistage sampling techniques were used for selecting 1008 adolescents aged 14-19 years old. Of these, 483 respondents reported having had sexual experience was selected for analysis. Univariate and Logistic regression were performed. Result: Six per cent of respondents reported ever having had anal sex. Slightly less than two thirds initiated their first sexual intercourse before age 15. Two thirds of the sexually experienced males reported two or more sexual partners during their lifetime with the mean 3.1 + 3.65 while only twelve per cent of girls reported this cumulative number of partners. Slightly more than half (57.6%) regarded themselves to have no risk at all with 17.2 per cent considered themselves to have low risk. Respondents had poor knowledge on STIs/HIV. Factors associated with risk perception of getting STIs were: being male, high level of knowledge about STIs and having had symptoms of STIs in last six months. Perceived risk of getting HIV was significantly associated with being male, having more knowledge about STIs and HIV. Conclusion: Adolescents in this study engaged in sexual risk behaviours, but they have low perception of risk getting STI/HIV. Socio-demographic factors, knowledge of STIs/HIV, and the level of exposure to STIs were the main determinants of the risk perception of STIs/HIV. Our finding supports the need to target adolescents in Luangnamtha province for HIV prevention intervention by addressing inaccurate perception of risk and increasing their knowledge on STIs/HIV.