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Timing of First Sexual Intercourse and Number of Lifetime Sexual Partners in Sub-Saharan Africa
Authors: Derek Anamaale Tuoyire, Prince Justin Anku, Laila Alidu, and Joshua Amo-Adjei
Source: Sexuality & Culture , First Online: 18 December 2017; Page 1-18; DOI:
Topic(s): First intercourse
Sexual behavior
Country: Africa
  Multiple African Countries
Published: DEC 2017
Abstract: The timing of first sexual intercourse (FSI) has been linked with subsequent sexual risk-taking behaviours and associated negative health outcomes. Nonetheless, there is a lack of multi-countries studies exploring the relationship between timing of FSI and subsequent number of sexual partnerships. Our aim in this paper was to aggregate evidence from 34 sub-Saharan African countries to investigate the association between age at FSI and lifetime number of sexual partners, using Demographic and Health Survey data. Descriptive and multilevel mixed effects Poisson regression techniques were applied to the data. The findings reveal a significant association between age at FSI and subsequent number of lifetime sexual partners. This association remained post adjusting for education, wealth, marital status and residence for both men and women. Beyond these, the results showed that wealth worked in opposite direction in men and women—higher wealth status was protective for women while it exposed men to higher number of lifetime sexual partners. Higher education exposed both women and men to increased number of lifetime partnerships. We conclude that there is an association between delayed onset of sexual intercourse and number of sexual partners over time, regardless of gender and socio-demographic background. Sexual and reproductive health programmes calling for sexual partner reduction should focus more on age of sexual debut while factoring in the influence of the various socio-demographic dynamics. Keywords Timing First sexual intercourse Sexual partners Sub-Saharan Africa