Sexual risk behavior and sexually transmitted infections among college students with disabilities


Background. In the past 20 years, there has been an increase in the number of college students with disabilities (SWDs) in the United States. SWDs may have not received relevant, or accessible, sexual health education from medical providers, parents, or school health educators. Due to the lack of this education, the college social environment, and developmental timing of traditional college aged students, SWDs are at risk of engaging in health compromising sexual behavior. Methods. We conducted a secondary data analysis of traditionally aged (18 to 24-year olds) college students who completed the National College Health Assessment administered in Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 (N = 95,119). We use prevalence estimates and logistic regressions [note: this has been corrected to read generalized linear models] to describe self-reported sexual health behavior and outcomes among college students without disabilities and SWDs, by disability category. Results. Findings indicate that college students with disabilities – particularly students with ADHD, psychiatric conditions, and multiple disabilities – are at higher risk than students without disabilities to engage in health compromising sexual health behavior and that students with multiple disabilities have higher adjusted prevalence ratios of being diagnosed and/or treated for a sexually transmitted infection. Conclusions. SWDs are not a monolithic population and there is cross-disability variability of engaging in health compromising and health promoting behavior. These findings highlight the need for college health promotion specialists and clinicians to advocate for accessible, sex positive, disability inclusive sexual health education.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

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  • The opinions, findings, and conclusions reported in this article are those of the authors and are in no way meant to represent the corporate opinions, views, or policies of the American College Health Association (ACHA). ACHA does not warrant nor assume any liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information presented in this article.

  • Is this paper peer reviewed? This paper is published in Sexually Transmitted Diseases. This journal uses a peer review process where the authors and the reviewers do not know each other’s identities.

  • Who paid for this project? This project received no specific funding. Tyler G. James was supported by the Graduate School Fellowship at the University of Florida when the project was conceved.

  • Are there any conflicts of interest? There are no conflicts of interest.