Individuals' perceptions about their sex partners' risk behaviors

Jonathan M. Ellen, Eric Vittinghoff, Gail Bolan, Cherrie B. Boyer, Nancy S. Padian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Individuals' perceptions about their sex partners' sexually transmitted disease (STD)- and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-related risk behaviors may affect their sexual behavior. The objective of this study was to determine the agreement between individuals 'perceptions about their main sex partners' risk behaviors and their main sex partners' self-reported risk behaviors. One hundred individuals and their current main heterosexual partner were recruited from a public STD Clinic. Participants were questioned separately from their main sex partner about their own risk behaviors and about their perceptions of their main sex partner's risk behaviors. Risk behaviors included more than one sex partner in the last three months, ever having had sex with another man (for male partners only), having used crack cocaine in the last three months, and ever having used injection drugs. For most of the risk behaviors, there was fair to moderate agreement between subjects' perceptions and their main sex partners' reported behavior (kappa scores ranged from 0.51 to 0.81). There was poor agreement between females' perceptions and their partners' report of ever having had sex with a man (kappa score=0.24). Furthermore, for most risk behaviors more than one third of participants thought that their partner had not engaged in a risk behavior when, in fact, they had. These findings are worrisome from a health education perspective. Individuals are either not asking about, or are being given false information about, their partners' HIV-related risk behaviors and, thus, may not be taking necessary precautions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)328-332
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Sex Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Psychology(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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