Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Gary Cameron

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


The focus of this research was to gain a better understanding of the factors that potentially enhance safe sex practices, given the aggressive spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) namely in the adolescent population. Despite the substantial amount of research that has been done in this area, no findings seem substantive enough in nature to satisfactorily shape effective programs for the prevention of STIs, including HIV/AIDS. Two Ontarian Universities were sampled and a total of 264 students between the ages of 18 and 22 (inclusively) were subsequently included in the study. Respondents completed and returned the questionnaire measuring identity style, sexual practices, sexual communication and HIV/AIDS knowledge and beliefs. There are a few main reasons for concurrently including these four measures. First, identity formation is a major life task of adolescence—as important as the discovery of one's sexuality and sexual experimentation. Since the literature suggests that identity developmental issues affect decisions to engage in sexually risk-taking behaviour, it is appropriate to examine these relationships. Second, sexual communication seems to emerge as a promising area for education around STIs and HIV/AIDS. Finally, knowledge and beliefs about HIV/AIDS is measured because without accurate knowledge of the mode of transmission of this deadly disease, sexual communication would seem ineffective. Given the salience of identity formation and sexuality, and the promising emergence of sexual communication (based in accurate HIV/AIDS knowledge) as a preventive tool to STIs, including HIV/AIDS, the relationship between identity style, sexual practices, sexual communication, and HIV/AIDS knowledge and beliefs were examined. High levels of sexual activity—unprotected sexual activity—were reported by both genders. Little to no relationship was found between sexual practices and the variables of identity style, sexual communication and HIV/AIDS knowledge. Age, however, emerged as an important determinant of safe sex, with younger individuals practicing safer sex. A negative relationship also emerged between sexual communication and safe sex practices. In addition getting oneself medically checked for STIs, including HIV/AIDS was related to lower rates of sexual protection, indicating that it is used as a safe sex mechanism. Implications of findings are discussed.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season