Rural life is so idyllic and those farm girls are so traditionalist, naive and pure... Is it so? A new research made at Indiana University and published in "Health Education Monograph" shows that single young adults living in rural areas do not have safer sex behaviors than their non-rural counterparts, such as number of sexual partners and rate of unprotected sex.
"Rural living apparently isn't protective, despite the image that the rural environment is more conservative, with traditional values that result in people being less risky in their personal behavior. The study findings are contrary to beliefs that individuals, just because they live in a rural area, are shielded against many of the factors that contribute to HIV/STD transmission and acquisition", said William L. Yarber, senior director of the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention, at Indiana University Bloomington.
The research was made on 1,500 men and 1,888 women aged 18 and 29, involved in the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth. Non-rural is a term referring to those inhabiting a county with over 50,000 residents.
Non-rural and rural men had an average of 8.8 and 7.2 female sex partners for a lifetime and 1.7 and 1.4 in the previous 12 months. For women, these numbers were 5.9 and 5.6 male sex partners for a lifetime, and 1.5 and 1.6 in the previous 12 months.
Non-rural and rural men had sex without a condom 4.9 and 6.2 times during the previous month, and 47 % of the non-rural men and 47 % of rural men (47 %) did not use condoms the last time they had sexual encounter. For women, the numbers were an average of 6.8 and 6.5 times during the previous month, and 51 % of the non-rural women and 47 % of the rural women did not use a condom the last time thay had sex.
59 % of the non-rural women were more likely to receive HIV, compared to 50 % of the rural women, while non-rural men and rural men had the same likelihood (44 %).
69 % of the non-rural men were likely to discuss STDs following their last HIV test, compared to 37 % of the rural men, while the numbers were the same in the case of women.
"Rural residents may be quite hesitant to respond to a health issue that has yet to 'hit home' as a reality. Thus, intensified efforts to promote HIV/STD risk reduction in rural America are warranted. The efforts are warranted because rural outbreaks of HIV may be difficult to contain because of fewer resources in rural areas for controlling HIV compared to urban areas", wrote the researchers.
STDs rates are indeed lower in rural areas, but risky behaviors are the same like in urban areas.
"Rural communities are probably less armed to deal with these issues because of lack of resources, more stigma and more denial related to the diseases", said Yarber.