Sweden Pushes Condom Use as Study Hints Risky Sex Common

Sweden has launched a campaign to halve new HIV infections by 2016 -- just as a new study finds a disconnect between Swedish youths' sexual behavior and their perception of risk.

In an online poll of 4,714 Swedes ages 15-24, just over half reporting casual sex said they always used a condom, according to the National Board of Health and Welfare's report. Among the youth polled, 40 percent lacked accurate information about how HIV is transmitted, and only 7 percent believed they were at high risk of HIV.

"In many ways, we have in our country all the necessary information to live a healthy life with low risk of disease," Health Minister Maria Larsson and Christer Wennerholm, head of the National Council for Coordination of HIV Prevention, wrote in the Dagens Nyheter daily. "But there is often a gap between what we know and what we do, and the gap is big when it applies to the risk of sexually transmitted infections."

"Only 51 percent of girls and 56 percent of guys aged 15 to 19 consider it obvious to use a condom with a casual partner," the authors said, referring to the study. That "they would rather risk contracting a sexually transmitted disease than abstain from sex when they don't have a condom" shows that more work in changing such attitudes is necessary, they wrote.

Last year, Sweden recorded 468 HIV infections and almost 38,000 chlamydia diagnoses.

"The question is how many will get HIV and how many young people will become infertile [as a result of chlamydia infection] before condom use becomes obvious with new partners," Larsson and Wennerholm asked.