Finds Condom Use Errors Are Common Among College Age Men
Researchers Strongly Recommend Condom Education and Instruction
A study conducted
by researchers at Emory and Indiana Universities and published in the
September issue of Sexually Transmitted Diseases found that various
condom use errors were frequent among a small sample of sexually active
heterosexual college men. The purpose of the study was to evaluate errors
and problems in the use of male latex condoms. Although the findings
cannot be generalized to a broader population and assume all of the
limitations that come with self-reported data, researchers believe that
the findings are significant because they point to a clear need for
better condom education and instruction.
Previous studies have shown
that consistent and correct use of male latex condoms will provide highly
effective protection against HIV and many other sexually transmitted
diseases. Although studies have focused on the consistency of condom
use, relatively few studies have assessed condom use errors and problems.
"We have known for quite
some time that it is vital to get the message out to sexually active
young people about the importance of consistent condom use," said lead
study author Richard A. Crosby, PhD from Emory University’s Center for
AIDS Research (CFAR). "This research suggests that promoting consistent
condom use may not be enough. It is important to provide adequate condom
use education and skills-building instruction so that sexually active
young men know how to use condoms correctly."
The study, conducted from
November 2000 through January 2001, explored condom use errors and problems
among college men at Indiana University. Of 362 men, 158 met the study
inclusion criteria (never married, and reporting putting a condom on
for sex at least once in the past 3 months). Forty two percent of young
men participating in the study reported that they wanted to use a condom
but did not have one available.
Some of the other basic problems
highlighted by the study included not checking the condom for visible
damage (74%), not checking the expiration date (61%), and not discussing
condom use with their partner before sex (60%). In addition, various
technical errors were found, including putting on the condom after starting
sex (43%), taking off the condom before sex was over (15%), not leaving
a space at the tip of the condom (40%), and placing the condom upside
down on the penis and then having to flip it over (30%).
In addition, 29% of study
participants reported condom breakage and 13% reported that the condom
slipped off during sex. Crosby stressed that this is not surprising
since those who reported slippage or breakage also had significantly
higher error scores. "These problems are likely the result of condom
use errors rather than defects in the condom itself, which, again highlights
the need for better condom education and instruction," added Crosby.
programs stress abstaining from sex as the first line of defense in
the prevention of HIV and other STDs. However, latex condoms are a vital
prevention strategy for those who choose to have sex. This study suggests
that increasing the focus on correcting potential user errors and problems
through increased and more effective education and instruction should
be a public health priority.
The study was sponsored by
the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention at Indiana University and The
Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction.
Dr. Richard Crosby, lead
investigator, is an assistant professor in the Department of Behavioral
Sciences and Health Education, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory
University. Study co-authors included Dr. Stephanie Sanders and Dr.
Cynthia Graham (Gender Studies at Indiana University and The Kinsey
Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction) and Dr. William
Yarber (Department of Applied Health Science at Indiana University and
Senior Director of the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention at Indiana