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Teen Women Choose Female-Controlled Methods for STD Prevention

March 23, 2001

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

A study in the January/February issue of Family Planning Perspectives, examined the factors associated with the choice of choosing a female-controlled, over-the-counter, contraceptive barrier method as an alternative to preventing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV.

Data was collected from 510 sexually-active females aged 15 to 30 who were recruited from three San Francisco Bay Area reproductive-health clinics from March 1995 through March 1998. Participants were encouraged to ask their primary male sexual partners to contact the research staff member themselves or to allow a staff member to contact them directly regarding the study. One hundred and sixty of the participants enrolled with a partner.


Results

Sexual Behavior

  • 45% of women who enrolled without a partner, 40% of women who enrolled with a partner, and 44% of male partners reported having first had penile-vaginal intercourse before or at the age of 15.
  • 40% of women who enrolled without a partner, 29% of women who enrolled with a partner, and 23% of male partners reported having had multiple sexual partners in the six months prior to the study.

Condom/Contraception Use

  • 61% of women who enrolled without a partner, 56% of women who enrolled with a partner, and 53% of male partners reported using a male condom during last sexual intercourse.
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  • 28% of women who enrolled without a partner, 41% of women who enrolled with a partner, and 36% of male partners reported using a hormonal method of contraception during last sexual intercourse.
  • 15% of women who enrolled without a partner, 9% of women who enrolled with a partner, and 11% of male partners reported using no method of contraception during last sexual intercourse.
  • 33% of women who enrolled without a partner and 38% of women who enrolled with a partner, and 0% of male partners reported having ever used spermicides.
  • 3% of women who enrolled without a partner and 4% of women who enrolled with a partner, and 0% of male partners reported having ever used a female condom.

Pregnancy/Abortion

  • 35% of women who enrolled without a partner, 34% of women who enrolled with a partner, and 34% of male partners reported ever being pregnant or impregnating a partner.
  • 21% of women who enrolled without a partner and 21% of women who enrolled with a partner reported ever having had an abortion.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

  • 55% of women who enrolled without a partner, 69% of women who enrolled with a partner, and 75% of male partners reported feeling that they are unlikely to contract an STD in the next year.
  • 21% of women who enrolled without a partner, 17% of women who enrolled with a partner, and 14% of male partners reported ever being diagnosed with an STD.

Communication

  • 84% of women who enrolled without a partner, 98% of women who enrolled with a partner, and 94% of male partners reported discussing contraception with their partner.
  • 79% of women who enrolled without a partner, 94% of women who enrolled with a partner, and 89% of male partners reported discussing their past sexual history with a partner.

Contraceptive Decisions

  • 63% of women who enrolled without a partner, 62% of women who enrolled with a partner, and 73% of male partners reported that both they and their partner decided about contraceptive use.
  • 30% of women who enrolled without a partner, 37% of women who enrolled with a partner, and 4% of male partners reported that they alone decided about contraceptive use.

Contraceptive Method of Choice

Participants attended a presentation on reducing the risk of acquiring HIV and other STDs. Upon completing the presentation, participants were asked to choose the barrier methods they preferred.

  • 59% of women who enrolled without a partner, 54% of women who enrolled with a partner, and 46% of male partners chose both male condoms and female controlled methods.
  • 22% of women who enrolled without a partner, 25% of women who enrolled with a partner, and 18% of male partners chose female-controlled methods only.
  • 9% of women who enrolled without a partner, 7% of women who enrolled with a partner, and 14% of male partners chose male condoms only.
  • 12% of women who enrolled without a partner, 14% of women who enrolled with a partner, and 22% of male partners chose no method of contraceptives.

  • Of the participants who chose to use female-controlled methods alone, 11% of women who enrolled without a partner, 13% of women who enrolled with a partner, and 6% of male partners chose both female condoms and spermicides.
  • Of the participants who chose to use female-controlled methods alone, 4% of women who enrolled without a partner, 6% of women who enrolled with a partner and 8% of male partners chose female condoms only.

The study found that most study participants -- 56% of women and 46% of the men -- who were presented with the opportunity to try female-controlled barrier methods elected not to take them without also taking male condoms. Additionally, women who were at increased risk of contracting an STD (multiple sexual partners) seem more reluctant to select female-controlled methods which perhaps may reflect prevention messages that promote male condoms as conferring the greatest protection against STDs.

The authors point out that women aged 17 and younger were more likely than older women to choose female-controlled methods only. Furthermore, the authors note that teenagers may not yet have established strong method preferences, and may be more willing than older women to experiment with female-controlled barrier methods. They go on to say that younger study participants are likely to have received youth-targeted prevention messages about HIV and STDs, and consequently might be particularly responsive to the opportunity to try alternative methods that prevent STDs.

The authors recommend that clinic-based education in contraception and STD-risk reduction targeted to young sexually active women, including those initiating hormonal contraceptive use, should incorporate the use of over-the-counter, female-controlled barrier methods into the method mix offered. They stress that such an expanded choice of barrier methods might ultimately lead to increased barrier method use overall.

For more information: A. M. Minnis and N. S. Padian, "Choice of Female-Controlled Barrier Methods Among Young Women and Their Male Sexual Partners," Family Planning Perspectives, 33 (1), pp. 28-34.


Web Resources

  • http://www.birdsandbees.org -- This Web site created by youth for youth is sponsored by Pro-Choice Resources (PCR). This teen site will help adolescents seeking information about sexual health, emotional well-being, and lifetime goals, make informed decisions. It includes information on STDs, birth control, abortion, adoption, and parenting.
  • http://www.pamf.org/teen/index2.cfm -- We’re Talking, developed by the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF), provides teens with medically accurate information and resources about their health. This Web site covers such topics as STDs, sexual-risk behaviors, contraception, pregnancy, and sexual orientation.

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!



  
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This article was provided by Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. It is a part of the publication SHOP Talk: School Health Opportunities and Progress Bulletin.
 
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