Many Men Don't Use Condoms
Because Men Deny Risk, STD Prevention Is Low Priority
Jan. 26, 2004 -- Many low-income, straight men don't use
condoms for disease prevention, despite knowing the risks, a new study
Rather than wear a condom to preventsyphilis,
gonorrhea, or other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), they would rather
take a chance -- and deal with the consequences later, researcher Diane M.
Grimley, PhD, chair of the Department of Health Behavior at the University of
Alabama at Birmingham.
Her paper appears in the current American Journal of Health
Public health warnings regarding STD prevention have made some
impact, she notes. Rates of syphilis and gonorrhea are at a 50-year low.
However, there's still a big problem -- rates of syphilis, gonorrhea, and
chlamydia remain far higher in the U.S. than in other industrialized
nations, writes Grimley.
Her concern focuses specifically on sexually active men who
have multiple partners and/or overlapping relationships. She explains that
infected men can readily infect a woman only after one sexual encounter.
Typically STD prevention programs target women and this lack of emphasis on
heterosexual men is troublesome given their contribution to continuing STD
transmission, she writes.
How Safe Are You?
In their study, Grimley and her colleagues focused on 224 men
-- all with STD symptoms -- who sought treatment in a Birmingham STD clinic.
The average age was 26, and most men were black.
In face-to-face, private interviews, each was asked the same
set of questions.
- How often have you used a condom in the past month?
- How long have you been using condoms?
- Do you have any intention of starting condom use?
- Why do you use condoms?
- Do you wear condoms for STD prevention or to protect your partner from
pregnancy and disease?
- Why don't you use condoms?
And the results:
- 80% reported that most people their age did not use condoms consistently.
They also said that 61% of people their age had gonorrhea.
- 81% acknowledged sexual contact with two or more partners during the
preceding six months.
- 45% reported sexual relationships that overlapped.
- 65% said they had been diagnosed with one or more STDs in the past.
Despite strong beliefs that condoms could be effective in STD
prevention, many men were not motivated to use condoms consistently, Grimley
Of those men with one main sexual partner, two-thirds were not
motivated to use condoms.
These men also gave little indication they would start using
condoms for STD prevention, she explains.
"They wanted their partners to know that they were
committed to the relationship," she writes. Other studies show similar
attitudes, indicating that intimate relationship issues are important to many
men, as well as women, she says.
Safety Is Often Not a Concern
Also, alcohol and drug users gave the least indication they
would use condoms.
For many men, safety from disease does not play a central role
in their decision-making about condoms, writes Grimley.