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Despite guidelines, U.S. condom use still low.

CHICAGO -- A new national survey shows condom use among sexually active adults is notably low, even among those with known genital herpes or other sexually transmitted diseases.

Clearly, the public has not heeded the message put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's STD Treatment Guidelines 2002, which recommend routine use of latex condoms in the setting of genital herpes, Dr. Choy Y. Man said at the annual Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

He presented the results of a two-track national survey on condom use.

A 35-item mailed questionnaire was completed by 1,181 representative adults matched for age and gender to the general U.S. population.

A similar 50-item questionnaire was completed by 1,033 adults with genital herpes simplex virus type 2, 76% of them women. Again, these respondents were demographically representative of the general adult population with genital herpes, as reflected in large databases.

Roughly half of the subjects in both the general population and the genital herpes population reported not having used a condom within the past 5 years.

Overall, 36% of respondents in the general adult population and 32% in the genital herpes group indicated they were sexually abstinent in the past month.

Among individuals who were sexually active in the past month, however, 79% in the general population and 83% with herpes reported not having used a condom during that time period.

The mean proportion of sexual acts in the past month in which condoms were used was 19% for the general population and 13% in the genital herpes sample, said Dr. Man of GlaxoSmithKline in Research Triangle Park, N.C., which sponsored the condom surveys.

Also, 12% of subjects in the general public and 19% in the genital herpes population characterized themselves as being in a casual as opposed to long-term, committed relationship.

Although those in a casual relationship had sex less frequently than those in a committed relationship, they made much greater use of condoms.

In the general population, individuals in a casual relationship used condoms in 63% of their sexual experiences, compared with a rate of 12% among those in a committed relationship.

And in the genital herpes population, those in a casual relationship used condoms during 35% of sex acts, compared with a rate of 10% for those in a long-term relationship.

Surprisingly, condom use in the genital herpes population was unaffected by whether a respondent had a partner with an STD.

For example, the proportion of sexual experiences during the past month in which a condom was used was 14% among individuals with genital herpes who had a partner with the disease and 12% among those whose partner did not have herpes, Dr. Man said at the conference, which was sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology.

These data, which were obtained in surveys of nationally representative population samples, show less frequent use of condoms than previously reported in clinical trials.

This disparity in the data lends support to the argument raised by some STD experts that participants in clinical trials tend to overstate their condom use in an effort to please investigators, Dr. Man explained.

Reliance upon mailed questionnaires overcomes this tendency, he added.

Overall, 86% of the general population and 89% of the genital herpes population declared their sexual orientation as heterosexual.

Three percent in each population described themselves as homosexual, with the remainder being bisexual.

BY BRUCE JANCIN

Denver Bureau
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Title Annotation:Across Specialties
Author:Jancin, Bruce
Publication:Clinical Psychiatry News
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Words:568
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