Asian and Pacific Islander adolescents and young adults appear to have a somewhat lower risk of contracting STDs, including HIV, than do other racial groups because a lower proportion of them engage in sexual activity.[19–21] However, Asians and Pacific Islanders who are sexually experienced consistently report rates of HIV risk behaviors at least as high as those among other groups.
For instance, Asian and Pacific Islander adolescents are less likely to be sexually experienced than white adolescents, but among those who are sexually experienced, the groups do not differ in age at first sex or lifetime number of partners.
From a systematic review of the literature, Warner and colleagues concluded that condom use is strongly linked to a reduced risk of gonorrhea and chlamydia in both men and women in the United States. Kaestle and colleagues found that earlier initiation of sex is strongly associated with STDs for older adolescents: An 18-year-old who had her first intercourse at age 13 is more than twice as likely to contract STDs as an 18-year-old whose first intercourse occurred at age 17. Similarly, Upchurch and Kusunoki found that among adolescents who were sexually experienced in 1995, younger age at first intercourse was associated with an increased risk of STDs one year later. In addition, a higher lifetime number of sexual partners was associated with elevated odds of contracting STDs.Thirteen percent of females and 4% of males had ever had an STD.Among those who had had an STD, 75% were female, 9% had ever been paid for sex, 31% had had sex before age 15 and 55% had had multiple sex partners in the previous 12 months.Further, sexually experienced Asians and Pacific Islanders are more likely than their white counterparts to have had multiple sex partners in the recent past. Similarly, although Asian and Pacific Islander adolescents from a Los Angeles County school district reported fewer lifetime partners for vaginal intercourse than did adolescents of other races, the sexually experienced Asians and Pacific Islanders reported the same frequency of sexual activity as adolescents of other races. Asian culture places great importance on the family system, family harmony and maintaining traditional gender roles.Adolescents’ premature sexual activity may be viewed as an embarrassment and a threat to family harmony. This may explain Asian and Pacific Islander adolescents’ delayed initiation of sexual activity.