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Teen Women Choose Female-Controlled Methods for STD Prevention

March 23, 2001

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.


Sexual Behavior

Condom/Contraception Use


Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)


Contraceptive Decisions

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.

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.

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