Open Access Research article

Sexual behavior and drug consumption among young adults in a shantytown in Lima, Peru

Juan A Gálvez-Buccollini1*, Suzanne DeLea2, Phabiola M Herrera1, Robert H Gilman13 and Valerie Paz-Soldan4

Author Affiliations

1 Asociación Benéfica PRISMA, Carlos Gonzales 251, Lima 32, Peru

2 School of Medicine, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131, New Mexico, USA

3 Department of International Health, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, 615 N Wolfe Street/W 5515, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA

4 Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, 1440 Canal Street, Suite 2200, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA

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BMC Public Health 2009, 9:23  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-23

Published: 19 January 2009



Risky sexual behaviors of young adults have received increasing attention during the last decades. However, few studies have focused on the sexual behavior of young adults in shantytowns of Latin America. Specifically, studies on the association between sexual behaviors and other risk factors for sexually transmitted infections (STI) and HIV/AIDS transmission, such as the consumption of illicit drugs or alcohol are scarce in this specific context.


The study participants were 393 men and 400 women between 18 and 30 years of age, from a shantytown in Lima, Peru. Data were obtained via survey: one section applied by a trained research assistant, and a self-reporting section. Logistic regression was used to estimate associations between use of any illicit drug, high-risk sexual behaviors and reported STI symptoms, adjusting for alcohol consumption level and various socio-demographic characteristics.


Among men, age of sexual debut was lower, number of lifetime sexual partners was higher, and there were higher risk types of sexual partners, compared to women. Though consistent condom use with casual partners was low in both groups, reported condom use at last intercourse was higher among men than women. Also, a lifetime history of illicit drug consumption decreased the probability of condom use at last sexual intercourse by half. Among men, the use of illicit drugs doubled the probability of intercourse with a casual partner during the last year and tripled the probability of reported STI symptoms.


Drug consumption is associated with high-risk sexual behaviors and reported STI symptoms in a Lima shantytown after controlling for alcohol consumption level. Development of prevention programs for risky sexual behaviors, considering gender differences, is discussed.