One of the leading concerns of public health officials worldwide, is improper use of the male condom, such as putting it on upside down, or not wearing one during intercourse, both of which are prevalent in the United States.

In a special issue of the journal Sexual Health, a collection of unbiased condom use studies provides a worldwide outlook on the problems and errors of condom use. The issue also contains studies on how condom use programs can be more effective, factors influencing correct condom use, as well as the promotion of the female condom. The issue appears online in advance of publication in the print issue.

Led by The Kinsey Institute Condom Use Research Team (CURT), over 20 investigators from across the world analyze and discuss issues, such as use of female condoms in South Africa, safe-sex behaviors of American adults, as well as counterfeit condoms in China.

William L. Yarber, professor of applied health science at IU and member of CURT, explained:

“The articles in the special issue illustrate both commonalities and differences relative to the use and promotion of male condoms around the world. It provides a resource for sexual health professionals to use for strategizing ways to increase cultural and individual acceptance of condom use.”

CURT is a research team of scholars from the University of Kentucky, Indiana University, the University of Southampton in the UK, and the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. The team has examined condom use for 10 years.

In order to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV, and unplanned pregnancies, it is vital to close the gap between the ideal way condoms should be used and the more typical manner, according to the CURT researchers. Compared to expensive HIV and AIDS medications, which are frequently inaccessible to individuals most at risk, condoms are considerably cheaper.

Richard Crosby, a member of CURT, professor at the University of Kentucky and lead editor for Sexual Health’s special issue, said:

“While we’d like to think the AIDS epidemic is going away, it’s not. In the U.S, it’s getting worse. We keep looking to medical doctors for the solution to the epidemic, but it’s the wrong paradigm. We can prevent small pox, SARS, cholera and a host of other infectious disease. The prevention of the disease is the modern solution to the AIDS pandemic, and we need to begin applying that solution in earnest.”

This is the first special issue to compile condom use studies from around the world in one place. The team want this information to reach global AIDS prevention organizations, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S., and the World Health Organization.

Crosby explained:

“Condoms are the vaccine we’ve been waiting for.”

According to Crosby, the gap between the correct use of condoms and the more typical use, which increases its fail rate, highlights the need for improved education and instruction on how to use condoms correctly.

Key requirements to their correct use include:

  • Internet-based education efforts
  • Improved clinic-based counseling
  • Public education
  • and making condoms accessible to individuals who need them

Crosby states that although individuals may feel uncomfortable discussing topics, such as lubricant, erections, semen and other aspects of sex, it is important that they are talked about openly . According to Crosby, this lack of education and detail as a result of embarrassment or discomfort is putting individual’s health and lives at risk.

Crosby said:

“We chronically underestimate how complicated condom use can be. It involves the use of a condom, while negotiating the condom use and sex with a partner all at the same time. There is a complex triad of the sex act, condom use and partner dynamics that must constantly be navigated by condom users.”

The reports underline issues and obstacles to effective condom use and offer advice for enhancing access to condoms. In addition, the reports address cultural issues that can intervene with their efforts. More attention should be place on areas where more research is required and on specific populations.

Written by Grace Rattue