If only studies that did not measure early sexual debut as a continuous variable are considered, then four of seven remain
significant. There was no support for the third pathway. Table 6 clearly shows that the only two studies that controlled for women’s age difference with their first sexual partner, whether the partner was drunk or on drugs during their first Smoothened Agonist concentration sexual intercourse or the partner’s estimated HIV infection risk continued to show a significant association between women’s onset of sexual debut and their HIV infection risk. No influence was established on the association between early onset of sexual debut and women’s HIV infection risk by differing socio-economic BGB324 research buy and demographic factors in all three studies that solely controlled for these factors (see Table 6). In addition, no study included information on the biological risk pathways, such as physiological immaturity or genital trauma, nor on determinants of early first sex relating to gender inequality, such as whether the first sex was forced, child sexual abuse or social norms supporting transactional sex apart from low levels of education and socio-economic status of women. To our knowledge, this is the first systematic review that investigates the association between age of sexual
debut and women’s risk of HIV infection. This is surprising given
the high rates of infection among adolescent girls in many sub-Saharan African countries, PI-1840 and its potential link with age at sexual debut. The review shows mixed results. Among high-quality studies, there is consistent evidence of an association between early sex and HIV risk, which remained after several potential confounders were adjusted for. The evidence is more mixed when all published evidence is considered, although several methodological limitations mean that some of these findings need to be interpreted with caution. We had expected that the review would provide clearer insights into the likely pathways in which risk may be increased. As the evidence for each pathway was mixed, each pathway will be discussed separately. We did not find evidence to support the claim that early sexual debut is associated with increased HIV infection risk through the increased duration of sexual activity and the therefore increased exposure time. However, we acknowledge that this issue has only been explored in research from Zimbabwe and may therefore not be generalisable to other settings. Several studies explored whether the association between early onset of sexual debut and HIV risk did remain once they had controlled for women’s later HIV risk behaviours, such as number of sexual partners, no condom use and STI infection.