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10 August 2006
Many Teenagers Clueless About Condoms, Survey Finds
by George Atkinson

Getting adolescents to use condoms may be only half the battle, as it turns out that many teens are not using them correctly, according to a survey of adolescents in England. The results of the survey were published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections and they paint a worrying picture of haphazard condom use by teenagers aged between 14 and 18.

Just under 1,500 teens were involved in the survey; and around two-thirds of those that had engaged in penetrative vaginal sex said they had used a condom on the most recent occasion. But among these, 6 percent said they had applied a condom after penetration and another 6 percent said they continued to have penetrative sex after they had removed the condom.

A subset of the survey subjects also kept a sexual activity diary for the six month survey period, revealing that almost one-in-three had put condoms on too late, and almost one-in-ten had removed the condom too soon.

More worryingly, nearly half of the diary entries described sexual encounters in which a condom had not been used during penetrative vaginal sex. The main reasons given for not using a condom were to enhance intimacy, that sex felt better without, that other contraception was being used, or that they simply got carried away.

On the flip-side, the three most common reasons given for choosing to use a condom were: to avoid pregnancy, to avoid making a mess, and to make sex last longer. Very few of the subjects cited the prevention of sexually transmitted infections as a reason.

Interestingly, those who used other forms of contraception were more than three times as likely to use condoms incorrectly, while those who did not use condoms regularly were also more likely to use them incorrectly. The results are a cause for concern, say the researchers behind the survey. "If we are to see a reduction in [sexually transmitted diseases and infections], it is essential that young people understand the importance of using condoms consistently and correctly, and are also equipped with the skills and knowledge to do so."

Based on material from the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections

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