June 12, 2003
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 heterosexual contact.
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 themselves.
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.
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 programs.
American Journal of Public Health
06.03; Vol. 93; No. 6: P. 912-914; John E. Anderson, Ph.D.