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Survey: Condom Use Rates are Low in the U.S.

May 09, 2017

Survey: Condom Use Rates are Low in the U.S.

Only one in four Americans between the ages of 18 and 44 used a condom the last time they had sex, according to a recent survey.

Condom use among people at high risk for HIV is also low, the survey revealed.

Condoms are known to reduce the risk of unplanned pregnancy and transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), like HIV, chlamydia, and syphilis. But how prevalent is condom use?

Researchers analyzed data from the National Survey of Family Growth, which has been collecting information on marriage, divorce, family life, and reproductive health in the United States since 1973. For this study, the researchers focused on the 2006 – 2010 and 2011 – 2013 survey cycles.

In particular, the researchers looked at data for heterosexuals between the ages of 18 and 44 who had had vaginal or anal sex within the year before their survey interview. In total, the respondents included 13,588 women and 10,904 men, and answers pertained only to their last sexual encounter.

They also considered “HIV-related sexual risk behaviors,” which included sex with four or more opposite-sex partners, sex in exchange for money or drugs, sex with an injection drug user, sex with an HIV-positive partner, and sex with a partner who had had other partners. Men who had sex with men and women who had sex with men who had sex with men were also considered at higher risk.

Overall, the rate of condom use was just under 25%. For those who reported at least one risky behavior, the rate was 34%.

Younger people were more likely to use condoms, the researchers noted, perhaps because public health campaigns promoting safe sex are often targeted to this age group. “Continued efforts are needed for sexual health promotion in older individuals,” they wrote.

Condom use was also higher among single respondents; 51% of single men and 37% of single women said they had used a condom the last time they had had sex. The rate for married or cohabitating men was 16%; for women, it was 13%. Couples in committed relationships might be less likely to use condoms because they are trying to conceive, using other forms of birth control, or in monogamous relationships.

Regardless of marital status, healthcare providers should counsel patients on condom use, especially if they engage in high risk sexual behaviors, the authors said, explaining that women should be able to negotiate condom use if necessary.

The researchers also expressed concern that condom use was lower for those who had anal sex. People may not think they need condoms for anal sex, since it cannot lead to pregnancy. But they might not know that STIs can still be spread through anal sex.

The researchers acknowledged some limitations. For example, respondents who did not use condoms at their last sexual encounter could still be regular condom users.

Still, the authors saw a need for continued education on condom use, especially people at risk for HIV, those who engage in anal sex, and those with many sex partners.

The study was published last month in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/National Center for Health Statistics

“About the National Survey of Family Growth”

(Page last updated: May 13, 2016)

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nsfg/about_nsfg.htm

The Journal of Sexual Medicine

Nasrullah, MD, MPH, PhD, et al.

“Factors Associated With Condom Use Among Sexually Active US Adults, National Survey of Family Growth, 2006–2010 and 2011–2013”

(Full-text. April 2017)

 http://www.jsm.jsexmed.org/article/S1743-6095(17)30121-2/fulltext