The magnitude of the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa puts young women at particularly high risk for HIV infection and calls for a better understanding of reproductive behavior, including sexual initiation and premarital sex. An increase in premarital sex is an inevitable consequence of later marriage in the developing world, if for no other reason than that the period during which girls are sexually mature and unmarried is prolonged when marriage is postponed. A recent Population Council project investigated the links between changing age at marriage and premarital sexual behavior in 27 sub-Saharan African countries. After documenting the decline in early marriage over an approximately 20-year period, researchers addressed the question of how reductions in the prevalence of early marriage affect the likelihood of initiating sex by age 18 and initiating premarital sex by the same age. As noted in Promoting Healthy, Safe, and Productive Transitions to Adulthood Brief No. 26, researchers also investigated whether younger women experience a faster or slower transition to marriage following sexual initiation.
Mensch, Barbara. 2007. "The changing context of sexual initiation in sub-Saharan Africa," Promoting Healthy, Safe, and Productive Transitions to Adulthood Brief no. 26. New York: Population Council.
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