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  • Joshua Amo-Adjei (a1) (a2) and Derek Anamaale Tuoyire (a3)


This study aimed to contribute to the evidence on the timing of sexual debut in young people in sub-Saharan African countries. Data were extracted from 34 nationally representative surveys conducted in the region between 2006 and 2014. The study sample comprised unmarried women (n=167,932) and men (n=76,900) aged 15–24 years. Descriptive techniques and Cox proportional regression models were used to estimate the timing of sexual debut, and Kaplan–Meier hazard curves were used to describe the patterns of sexual debut in each country by sex. For the countries studied, sexual debut for both women and men occurred between the ages of 15 and 18 years, with median ages of 16 for women and 17 for men. Overall, education and household wealth provided significant protection against early sexual debut among women, but the reverse was found among men for wealth. Women in rural areas, in female-headed households and in Central, South and West Africa reported higher hazards of early commencement of sexual activity than their counterparts in urban, male-headed households and East Africa. However, the impact of these variables on male sexual debut did not follow a consistent pattern. Varied timing, as well as country-specific risk factors associated with sexual debut for young women and men across sub-Saharan Africa, were identified. Sexual health programmes and interventions for young people may require different approaches for young women and men.


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