Sexual behavior has been assessed using a wide range of measures (Noar et al, 2006; Schroder et al, 2003a; Sheeran and Abraham, 1994).
Although there has been a lack of consensus regarding the best method of assessing self-reports of sexual behaviors, some researchers have suggested focusing on using measures that are most appropriate for the specific context or goal of the research (e.g., risk screening, risk assessment, and risk event) (Noar et al, 2006; Patterson and Strathdee, 2005; Weinhardt et al, 1998b). For instance, if the goal is to assess the overall frequency of condom use among members of a specific community (e.g., among homeless adolescents), the researcher might ask global questions regarding the number of times a participant had sex and their overall frequency of condom use during a specific reporting period (e.g., past 3 months). Alternatively, if the goal is to assess the risk of HIV within the same community, a researcher might ask participants specific questions regarding the co-occurrence of sexual risk behavior (e.g., sex without a condom, alcohol and/or drug use prior to sex). Accurate measurement of sexual risk behavior is important not only in assessing the effectiveness of prevention programs, but also for ascertaining the prevalence of disease within a community, as well as informing policy decisions about how best to prevent STIs.
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