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Common Misconceptions About Condom Use

June 29, 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 As a result, parts of this article may be outdated.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 May issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health examined the prevalence of three misconceptions about correct condom use and whether the prevalence of these misconceptions varied by gender, sexual intercourse experience, and condom use.

Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (ADD Health) was analyzed to determine prevalence of misconceptions among 16,667 adolescents 15 to 21 years of age who completed in-home interviews between April and December 1995.

To determine the prevalence of misconceptions about correct condom use and to assess the associations between these misconceptions, participants were divided into three groups: adolescents who had ever had sexual intercourse and had used condoms at least once, adolescents who had ever had sexual intercourse and had never used condoms, and adolescents who had never had sexual intercourse.


Overall Findings

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  • 47% of participants reported ever having sexual intercourse.

  • Of the participants who reported ever having sexual intercourse, 28% reported using condoms at least once.

  • Of the participants who reported ever having sexual intercourse, 29% reported having four or more lifetime partners.


Misconceptions About Condom Use

Participants were asked to identify the following statements as "true," or "false."

"When putting on a condom, it is important to have it fit tightly, leaving no space at the tip."

  • 33% of female participants and 40% of male participants who reported having had sexual intercourse and using a condom at least once, incorrectly identified the statement as true.

  • 35% of female participants and 39% of male participants who reported having had sexual intercourse and never using a condom, incorrectly identified the statement as true.

  • 51% of female participants and 45% of male participants who reported never having had sexual intercourse, incorrectly identified the statement as true.

"Vaseline can be used with condoms, and they will work just at well."

  • 28% of female participants and 34% of male participants who reported having had sexual intercourse and using a condom at least once, incorrectly identified the statement as true.

  • 27% of female participants and 32% of male participants who reported having had sexual intercourse and never using a condom, incorrectly identified the statement as true.

  • 33% of female participants and 35% of male participants who reported never having had sexual intercourse, incorrectly identified the statement as true.

"Natural skin (lambskin) condoms provide better protection against the AIDS virus then latex condoms."

  • 16% of female participants and 24% of male participants who reported having had sexual intercourse and using a condom at least once, incorrectly identified the statement as true.

  • 18% of female participants and 21% of male participants who reported having had sexual intercourse and never using a condom, incorrectly identified the statement as true.

  • 20% of female participants and 23% of male participants who reported never having had sexual intercourse, incorrectly identified the statement as true.

Researchers also examined the relationship between adolescents' actual and perceived knowledge about correct condom use. Perception of knowledge about correct condom use was not associated with actual knowledge.

The study's findings suggest that many sexuality and HIV/STD education programs provided to adolescents, particularly school-based programs, are not adequately addressing correct condom-use procedures. The authors note that programs that address correct condom use may be optional, thus reaching fewer adolescents.

The authors recommend that in order for young people to protect themselves adequately from STD/HIV and pregnancy, they need complete prevention information. They go on to say that educators should not only inform students of the value of condom use in preventing STDs and pregnancy but that they should give correct use information as well.

For more information: R.E. Crosby and W.L. Yarber, "Perceived versus Actual Knowledge about Correct Condom Use among U.S. Adolescents: Results from a National Study," Journal of Adolescent Health, vol. 28, no. 5, pp. 415-20.


Resources

EveryBody: Preventing HIV and Other Sexually Transmitted Diseases Among Young Teens is a developmentally appropriate, research-based curriculum produced by Redefining Actions and Decisions (RAD) Educational Programs. This curriculum engages youth in grades five through nine in active learning.

EveryBody is an abstinence-based program that promotes risk elimination as the safest way to prevent HIV/STD infections and also endorses risk reduction as an important component of HIV/STD-prevention strategies. Lessons and activities promote the development, internalization, and actual use of prevention-related skills and knowledge, commitment to lifelong health, self-efficacy, hope for the future, and courage.

EveryBody's revised edition contains six chapters with up-to-date information on HIV, STDs, and other related topics. It also contains 24 sequential student-centered activities with guiding questions, step-by-step directions, assessment measures, and lesson extensions.

This curriculum is medically accurate and comprehensive. It respects the beliefs and concerns held by young teens, their families, and the community. This manual focuses on promoting healthy behaviors through risk elimination (abstinence) and risk-reduction strategies. This is a flexible yet structured prevention model intended for local adaptation.

Copies are $39 and bulk discounts are available. Call for information.

For more information: RAD Educational Programs, P.O. Box 1433, Carbondale, CO 81623; Phone: 970/963-1727; Fax: 970/963-2037; Web site: http://www.preventaids.net; E-mail: info@preventaids.net.

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.
 
See Also
Quiz: Are You at Risk for HIV?
10 Common Fears About HIV Transmission
More Research on HIV Prevention Among Youth

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