In recent years, the importance of condoms for HIV
prevention has remained high as the epidemic has shifted to have
more impact on women and persons subject to infection through
The current study presents data on condom use from a
nationally representative survey of adults living in the United
States -- the General Social Survey -- for 1996, 1998, and 2000,
the first national data, available since the mid-1990s, on condom
use among adults. The goal is to measure trends in condom use and
to estimate the extent to which persons at increased risk for HIV
report using condoms to protect their sexual partners and
The General Social Survey has collected information on a
variety of topics of social importance annually or semiannually
since 1972 from a national household-based probability sample of
US adults ages 18 and older. Questions on sexual behavior and
condom use were asked in 1996, 1998, and 2000 as part of a self-administered questionnaire, and drug use questions were added in
2000. The overall response rates for the main interview of the
General Social Surveys have averaged 77 percent, and since 1996,
an estimated 13.7 percent of the respondents did not complete the
self-administered questionnaire. The data presented are for 5,743
sexually active respondents ages 18 and older interviewed in
1996, 1998, and 2000; the more detailed analysis is for 1,786
respondents from the 2000 General Social Survey.
Condom use during last sexual intercourse was reported by
19.5 percent of the adults in the 1996, 1998, and 2000 General
Social Surveys. No increase in condom use from 1996 to 2000 was
found. Among persons whose last sexual intercourse was within a
regular relationship, condom use was higher among those who were
unmarried, were younger, were black, had 2 or more sexual
partners or not well-known partners in the past year, or had some
degree of HIV risk, whether from sexual or drug abuse behavior.
Condom use outside of regular relationships was higher among
those with some degree of sexual risk.
An estimated 4.6 percent of the 2000 General Social Survey
respondents were at increased risk through either sexual or drug-use behavior. These at-risk persons were more likely to use
condoms with their regular partners. This implies that most of
the persons at risk were not using condoms with their ongoing
sexual partners and therefore were placing their partners or
themselves at risk for acquiring or transmitting HIV.
The research found no trend toward greater condom use
apparent in the 1996 to 2000 period. While persons at increased
behavioral risk for HIV are more likely than others to use
condoms, most of these are not using condoms with their regular
partners. The General Social Survey estimates that 7 million to
12 million adults are at increased risk for acquiring or
transmitting HIV through risk behavior. Increasing safe sex
behavior for these individuals is a priority for prevention
Back to other CDC news for June 12, 2003
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network.
It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.