Background Great heterogeneity in sexually transmitted infections (STI) risk exists, and investigating individual-level characteristics related to changes in STI risk over time might facilitate the development and implementation of effective evidence-based behavior change interventions. The aim of this study was to identify longitudinal patterns of STI risk based on psychological and behavioral characteristics. Methods A longitudinal study was conducted among heterosexual STI clinic visitors aged 18 to 24 years. Latent classes based on behavioral and psychological characteristics at baseline, and transitions from 1 latent class to another at 3-week, 6-month, and 1-year follow-up, were identified using latent transition analysis. Results Four latent classes were identified that could be differentiated by psychological and behavioral characteristics and STI risk: overall low-risk (10%), insecure high-risk (21%), condom-users (38%), and confident high-risk (31%). Although the majority of the total study population did not move to another latent class over time, the size of the overall low-risk group increased from 10% at baseline to 30% after 1 year. This was mainly due to transitions insecure high-risk, condom-users, and confident high-risk class at 3-week follow-up to the overall low-risk class at 6-month follow-up. Conclusions Distinct subgroups among heterosexual STI clinic visitors can be differentiated from each other by multiple psychological and behavioral characteristics, and these characteristics reflecting the risk of acquiring STI are consistent over the course of 1 year in most individuals. An integral approach, adapting behavioral interventions to match multiple psychological and behavioral characteristics of high-risk subgroups, might be more effective in controlling STI transmission.
Bibliographical noteSources of Funding: The Strategic Programme (SPR) of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) provided funding for this study (project number S/113004/01/IP).
- LATENT CLASS ANALYSIS
- NATIONAL SURVEYS