OBJECTIVES: This cross-sectional survey aimed to explore associations between age of menarche, early sexual debut and high-risk sexual behaviour among urban Tanzanian schoolgirls.
METHODS: Secondary schoolgirls aged 17-18 years from Mwanza, Tanzania, participated in structured face-to-face questionnaire-based interviews, conducted by nurses and clinicians. Age of menarche was evaluated in categories of 11-12, 13-14, 15-16 or ≥17 years. Primary outcome measures were self-reported early sexual debut (first vaginal sex at <16 years) and high-risk sexual behaviour, including non-use of condoms, having sex for gifts/money, having older sexual partners and/or other risky behaviours.
RESULTS: Of 401 girls enrolled, 174 (43.4%) reported prior vaginal sex. Prevalence of early sexual debut was 14.2% but pressured/forced sex and risky sexual behaviours were common. Adjusted for potential confounding, younger age at menarche was associated with early sexual debut (adjusted odds ratio for linear trend: 1.88 per category, 95% confidence interval: 1.21-2.92, p=0.005). This association remained after excluding girls with first sex at <8 years or experiencing pressure or force at first sex. Further, adjusted for potential confounding (including ever experiencing forced sex), early sexual debut was associated with high-risk sexual behaviour (adjusted odds ratio: 2.85, 95% confidence interval: 1.38-5.88, p=0.004).
CONCLUSIONS: Among urban Tanzanian schoolgirls, younger age of menarche was associated with early sexual debut, and early sexual debut was associated with high-risk sexual behaviour. Researchers and public health professionals developing and delivering interventions aimed at preventing adverse sexual health outcomes should consider the impact of these early biological and sexual exposures.
- Cross-Sectional Studies
- Sexual Behavior
- Sexual Partners