Background: While The Bahamas have significantly reduced poor reproductive health outcomes among adolescents and emerging adults, data indicate that youth are engaged in sexual risk behaviors. Substance use has been linked to increased risk for HIV and sexually transmitted infections in other contexts. There are limited data on Bahamian youth in relation to consumption of alcohol and marijuana use and engagement in sexual behaviors.
Objective: This study aimed to assess potential relationships between alcohol and marijuana use and engagement in sexual behavior among government secondary school students in New Providence, The Bahamas.
Materials and methods: Total sample size was 2572, and about 56% of respondents were female. Mean age was 14.2 (SD 2.7 years). Cross-sectional data came from a baseline survey conducted as part of a longitudinal randomized controlled evaluation of a school-based HIV prevention and reproductive health program in New Providence.
Results: Overall, 46.5% (519) males and 44.8% (652) females reported alcohol consumption; 7.3% (82) males and 1.7% (25) females reported use of marijuana in the last 6 months. About 43% (477) male respondents and 16% (231) female respondents reported ever having vaginal sex. Logistic regression analysis indicates that increased likelihood of engaging in sex during the past 6 months is associated with being older, male, and consuming alcohol and marijuana.
Conclusion: These data provide a ‘global correlation’ between substance use and engagement in sexual behaviors among Bahamian adolescents. Longitudinal research is needed to assess event specific risks and identify mediating and moderating factors. These findings indicate the importance of integrating reproductive health and substance use education.
The research is funded through the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, Grant Number R01 MH069229. We would like to thank the Bahamian Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education as well as the students, parents, teachers, principals, and guidance counselors who made this research possible.
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