Women clients of a methadone maintenance treatment clinic were targeted for an intervention aimed to reduce unsafe sex. The hierarchical model was the basis of the single intervention session, tested among 63 volunteers. This model requires the educator to discuss and demonstrate a full range of barriers that women might use for protection, ranking these in the order of their known efficacy. The model stresses that no one should go without protection. Two objections, both untested, have been voiced against the model. One is that, because of its complexity, women will have difficulty comprehending the message. The second is that, by demonstrating alternative strategies to the male condom, the educator is offering women a way out from persisting with the male condom, so that instead they will use an easier, but less effective, method of protection. The present research aimed at testing both objections in a high-risk and disadvantaged group of women. By comparing before and after performance on a knowledge test, it was established that, at least among these women, the complex message was well understood. By comparing baseline and follow-up reports of barriers used by sexually active women before and after intervention, a reduction in reports of unsafe sexual encounters was demonstrated. The reduction could be attributed directly to adoption of the female condom. Although some women who had used male condoms previously adopted the female condom, most of those who did so had not used the male condom previously. Since neither theoretical objection to the hierarchical model is sustained in this population, fresh weight is given to emphasizing choice of barriers, especially to women who are at high risk and relatively disempowered. As experience with the female condom grows and its unfamiliarity decreases, it would seem appropriate to encourage women who do not succeed with the male condom to try to use the female condom, over which they have more control.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health(social science)
- Urban Studies
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health