Background: Despite research on age-disparate sexual relationships in Africa, few studies have explored non-age characteristics of partners, and almost none has clearly articulated young females'' motivations for pursuing different types of sexual partners.
Methods: The Ascertaining Sexual Relationship Types (ASERT) method uses anonymous, group-based reporting to discern the diversity and range of sexual partner types, the criteria used in making partner choices, and partner-specific relationship attributes ranked by order of importance.
Results: Based on a pilot exercise in Tanzania with young out-of-school females grouped by age, the tool revealed 13 distinct sexual partner types among adolescent girls (aged 15-19) and young women (aged 20-24), as well as the motivations for pursuing each type, ranked by order of importance. Nine partner types were common to both age groups; three were distinct to 15-19s and one to 20-24s.
The 13 varieties of sexual partners lie along an economic-socioemotional continuum. Among the eight age-disparate types, all were primarily for financial assistance. Two were only for big money or fast money; six were for a mix of cash gifts combined with one or more of the following: parent-like care, transportation access, health care access, or freedom to have other sexual relationships. The five similar-age partner types were mainly for sexual satisfaction, social status, or love and future plans.
Conclusions: Results show that 15-19-year-olds named more sexual partner types (12) than did 20-24-year-olds (10), and that economic and structural barriers were more frequently described as motivations among the 15-19-year age group, possibly due in part to their out-of-school status. The findings emphasize the need for reaching young adolescent girls before such relationships start with age-adapted HIV prevention and social protection interventions that include school retention and economic strengthening. Data from this tool can allow HIV prevention programs to better understand the ranked criteria that adolescent girls and young women use in making sexual partnership choices.

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