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25 July 2005
Errors In Condom Use Behind Increased STD Infections?
by George Atkinson

Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham have just completed a study examining condom usage by patients at a clinic specializing in sexually transmitted diseases. The study, published in the American Journal of Health Behavior, suggests that errors in condom use and breakages are associated with gonorrhea infection in men. The researchers said that the findings underscore the importance of promoting not only consistent condom usage, but also correct usage.

Study leader Diane Grimley said that while proper condom use seems obvious, the findings demonstrate that it must be taught, even to sexually experienced individuals. "The tendency to assume that consistent condom users are using condoms correctly seriously underestimates their risk of transmitting or contracting STDs or becoming pregnant unintentionally."

The study took in more than 1,000 primarily African-American men and women. They provided biological specimens along with information on sexual risk behaviors and condom issues. The researchers examined the association between incorrect condom use and the two most common STDs at the clinic: gonorrhea and chlamydia. Over 15 percent of the subjects tested positive for one or both infections and, of great concern, nearly 24 percent reported condom use errors.

Improper techniques such as not leaving a space at the tip of the condom and not removing the air from the tip were common reports from the women, while men were more likely to report condom breakage or putting a condom on inside-out. Of the errors studied, condom breakage was found to be associated with gonorrhea infection in men. The researchers said further studies looking at other STDs were warranted as more than 20 percent of adults in the United States were currently living with a viral STD - the highest infection rate of any industrialized country.

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