Identifying Sexually Transmitted Infection Risk Groups Based on Behavioral and Psychological Characteristics Among Heterosexuals During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Daphne A. van Wees*, Noortje G. Godijk, Chantal den Daas, Mirjam E.E. Kretzschmar, Janneke C.M. Heijne

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Measures to reduce coronavirus disease (COVID-19) transmission may impact sexual health. We aimed to examine the impact of COVID-19 on sexual behavior and sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing and to characterize individuals who were at high STI risk. Methods: Dutch heterosexual males and females who participated in a cohort study in 2016 to 2018 were invited to fill out 2 questionnaires again in 2020 (age, 21–28 years). We used behavioral and psychological data from: prelockdown (September 2019 to February 2020), lockdown (March to May 2020), and postlockdown (June to August 2020). Behavior change was compared between subgroups identified with latent class analysis. Results: Four latent classes were identified (n = 238). Individuals in class 1 (48% of study population) and class 2 (36%) were at low STI risk and reported mostly steady partnerships. Individuals in class 3 (9%) and class 4 (7%) reported multiple casual partners prelockdown. Class 4 was characterized by lower condom use and health goals, negative infection prevention attitudes, and higher impulsiveness compared with class 3. Furthermore, same/increased partner numbers during lockdown (class 3, 18%; class 4, 56%) and postlockdown (class 3, 36%; class 4, 42%) compared with prelockdown was often reported. Of individuals who wanted an STI test during the pandemic, 62% in class 3 and 56% in class 4 did not get tested, mainly because they were unable to get an appointment. Conclusions: A subgroup of individuals, characterized by low health goals, negative infection prevention attitudes, and high impulsiveness, engaged in high-risk behavior during the pandemic. Identifying these individuals may help provide appropriate health care during strict lockdowns and after relaxation of measures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-159
Number of pages6
JournalSexually Transmitted Diseases
Volume49
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022

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