Condom use relative to knowledge of sexually transmitted disease prevention, method of birth control, and past or present infection

Jay M. Fleisher, Ruby T. Senie, Howard Minkoff, James Jaccard

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The purpose of this study was to assess knowledge regarding STD spread and prevention, and to assess motivational and behavioral factors that influence the use of condoms to prevent STD acquisition among inner-city women at high risk for STD infection. In addition, the effect of past and/or current STD infection on a woman's knowledge of the mechanism of STD acquisition and subsequent use of a condom to prevent STD infection was explored. We utilized three inner-city clinics offering family planning or gynecologic care located in Brooklyn, New York. Our study linked clinical findings regarding current infection with chlamydia or Trichomonas vaginalis. One thousand four hundred and four sexually active black and Hispanic women participated in the study. A past history of STD (37%) or current infection (29%) was recorded for 54% of the study population (12% were positive for both past and current infection). On average, only 60% of women who reported prior treatment for STD infection reported receiving any information regarding prevention of re-infection during the course of treatment. Depending on the specific STD, from 6.8% to 42.9% of women reporting prior treatment for an STD did not know the disease they were being treated for was sexually transmitted. Condom use for disease prevention was more frequently reported by women who had previously been treated for an STD (OR=1.62, 95% CI 1.23-2.13). However, condom use for contraception was a stronger predictor of use for STD prevention. Women who relied on condoms for contraception were almost 10 times more likely to also report condom use for STD prevention relative to women who did not use condoms for contraceptive purposes (OR=9.71, 95% CI 7.0-13.5). In addition, condom use was associated with the perceived attitude of their sexual partner toward such use. Condom use to prevent STD acquisition was more than twice as frequently reported when a favorable attitude was perceived by a male sexual partner (OR=2.30, 95% CI 1.54-3.43). Our findings suggest that prevention of unplanned pregnancy was a stronger motivator for condom use than disease prevention among the women comprising our study group. The findings also indicate the need for more extensive information regarding STD prevention among women at high risk for STD acquisition. Health care providers must insure that the information they give is clear and easily understood by the patient population they serve. Health care providers must also emphasize the importance of developing behaviors that protect against both unwanted pregnancies and STD infection, and that this responsibility should be shared by both sexual partners.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-407
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Community Health
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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