Indicator 9.4: "Young people having multiple partners in last year"
The percent of young people (aged 15-24) who have had sex with more than one partner in the last 12 months, of all sexually active young people, in the last 12 months..
UNAIDS general population survey; DHS AIDS module; FHI BSS (youth).
What It Measures
Prevention messages for young people tend to begin with abstinence and often focus also on mutual monogamy. But because sexual relationships among young people are frequently unstable, relationships that were intended to be mutually monogamous may break up and be replaced by other relationships in which similar intentions prevail. Particularly in high HIV prevalence epidemics, serial monogamy is not greatly protective against HIV infection. This indicator measures the proportion of young people that have been exposed to more than one partner in the last year. That is, the proportion for whom the "one, mutually faithful partner" message has failed.
How to Measure It
In a survey among people aged 15-24, respondents are asked about their sexual partnerships in the last year. Those that report more than one partner in the last 12 months enter the numerator. The denominator is all respondents, sexually active in the last 12 months.
The indicator should be reported separately for men and women. It may also be constructed separately for those aged 15-19, <15 and 20-24, as appropriate.
Strengths and Limitations
This indicator does not distinguish between marital and non-marital partners. It tracks all multiple partnerships, regardless of their relative levels of risk. In the very similar adult sexual behaviour indicator (Sexual Behaviour Indicator 1) a distinction is made between marital and cohabiting partners, and all other partner types. This is partly to cope with the measurement challenge posed by men in polygynous societies, who may have multiple partners within marriage. However polygyny among men under 25 is extremely rare. It is therefore not necessary to make the distinction in an indicator for young people.
The indicator also suffers from the expected respondent and social desirability bias. For young people saturated with prevention messages, there will be high motivation to underreport partners. Likewise, social pressure for women to give untruthful answers may be strong.