Report: Improper Condom Use Puts Young Women at Risk for STIs

A new report reveals that almost half of all women ages 18-24 whose partners use condoms are doing so improperly, putting them at risk for contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancy. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Washington, Duke University, and the Group Health Cooperative in Seattle, surveyed 779 sexually active young women who had recently used condoms, according to the New York Times. The results showed that in the previous three months 44 percent of the heterosexual couples had waited too long to apply condoms, and 59 percent had waited until after penetration to apply a condom, according to the Times. An additional 19 percent of the women reported condom breakage or slippage, most often caused by improper use, according to WebMD Medical News. “If condoms are not used correctly, people are not protected from STDs and unintended pregnancies,” said Dr. Diane Civic, head of the study, according to WebMD.

This study comes at a time when the Bush Administration is pushing for abstinence-only sex education in schools, in which instruction about proper condom use is not allowed. Condoms are only allowed to be mentioned in terms of their failure rates. When condoms are used correctly, the failure rate is very low, around 2 percent. However, when couples lack the knowledge to use condoms effectively, that rate can increase. A national poll released by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the US (SIECUS) last October revealed that 81 percent of parents want their children to be taught comprehensive sex education. In 1995, President Bush’s home state, Texas, was the third state requiring that abstinence-only sex education be the only curriculum used; today, it has the third highest rate of teen births in the nation, according to Kaiser Family Foundation.

Despite scientific evidence to the contrary, the Bush Administration has been promoting the idea that discussing condom use will increase adolescent sexual behavior. The US delegation at a recent UN population conference tried to remove wording calling for “consistent condom use” as a way to prevent the spread of AIDS, arguing that it would encourage teens to have sex. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have come under criticism for altering a fact sheet on condoms by removing information on how to use condoms effectively and downplaying the benefits of condom use as a means to protect against STIs.


New York Times 1/21/03; WebMD Medical News 12/26/02; Seattle Times 1/12/03; Washington Post 1/21/03; Kaiser Family Foundation; SIECUS 10/1/02

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