Tag Archives: condom use

Condom Use Among Young African American Men

Today’s guest post was written a sex educator who specializes in peer-to-peer pregnancy prevention programs. He understands the cultural nuances that influence the decisions young people make and works to help youth realize their potential. 

Condom use can be a taboo topic, especially within certain cultures and ethnic communities, including the African American community. When you dissect the African American community into subsets (by age, for example) you see trends in attitudes about condom use. According to the Black Aids Institute, young African American men report a 20.5 percent condom usage rate. It’s alarming to consider that 4 out of 5 young black men are not using condoms during sexual intercourse. Lack of condom use among African-American men can be seen as a direct correlation to higher rates of unplanned pregnancies, HIV, and other STI’s within the African American community.


Research done by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation conducted a qualitative study on condom use behaviors among urban African-American men ages 18-24. That research revealed various reasons for non-condom use:

  • Lack of interest in condom use
  • Lack of immediate access to condoms
  • Inconvenience
  • The mood-killing length of time it takes to put on a condom
  • Partner’s disinterest in condom use

The most commonly expressed rationale for not using condoms among the research participants was their general disinterest in using condoms. It is evident that there may be some cultural perceptions among young African-American men that promote the non-use of condoms during sexual intercourse. Education is a critical component to refute many of the misconceptions that this population has in regards to condom use and it may be highly beneficial for Sexual Health Educators to consider the use of peer-to-peer education.

Some of the perceptions of condom use among young African-American men are driven by peer influence. A literature review of peer-to-peer programs done by Advocates for Youth revealed the following results:

  • Improved reproductive and sexual health outcomes, including reduced incidence of pregnancy, births and STIs
  • Reduced sexual risk behaviors, including delayed initiation of sex, increased contraceptive use and condom use, reduced number of new sexual partners as well as increased abstinence among sexually experienced youth, reduced incidence of unprotected sex, reduced frequency of sex, and increased partner communication
  • Increased incidence of testing and sharing test results, including testing for HIV, for STIs, and sharing positive test results with a partner

Lack of condom use among African-American men has far-reaching public health consequences and effective strategies must be implemented to mitigate the cultural behavioral norms that promote non condom use. Peer education appears to be a promising model to educate young African-American men about the benefits of consistent and appropriate condom use.

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Why Don’t More People Use Condoms?

Most of us know that condoms are great at preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, so why aren’t more people using them? The most common reasons why people state they don’t use condoms are:

  • It takes away from the moment
  • It smells or tastes bad
  • Some men lose their erection
  • Reduces pleasure for both men and women
  • They don’t have one when they decide to have sex
  • Their partner will think they don’t trust them if they ask to use a condom
  • Their partner will think they sleep around if they ask them to use a condom
  • Fear of being identified as “high risk”

Man unwrapping condom, woman lying on bed in background, close-up of hands, close-up

All of these are valid reasons, but there is more to it. Most people know at least a little bit about the risks of unprotected sex and the consequences, but someone’s “Perceived risk” is a bigger factor in whether they choose to protect themselves. Education by itself is not enough to change behavior. Our personal beliefs on how likely we are to become infected with STI’s or pregnant play a much bigger role in whether someone uses a condom use. The components of these beliefs are part of the Health Belief Model listed below which can help an individual or medical provider address sexual risk and behavior.

Perceived Susceptibility People will not change their health behaviors unless they believe that they are at risk. Ex: 
If someone doesn’t think they are risk for STI’s they won’t use a condom.

Perceived Severity 
The likelihood that someone will change their behavior depends on the severity of the potential consequences. Ex: I had a pregnancy scare and now I always use a condom.

Perceived Benefits 
People won’t change their behavior if there isn’t something in it for them.
 Ex: I really like the way it feels without a condom and partner doesn’t make me use one.

Perceived Barriers People won’t change their behavior if they think it will be hard. Ex: My partner and I have already had unprotected sex and I can’t start using condoms now.

Self-Efficacy The extent or strength of one’s belief in one’s own ability to complete tasks and/or reach goals. For many individuals something has to change or connect with them to make them step back and decide that their current choices are not working for them or place them in danger. Ex: If a person truly believes they can avoid chlamydia by negotiating condom use, they are apt to be more successful in reaching their goal.

Things to consider:

  • Get tested if you don’t know your status or your partners status.
  • Think about your risk factors and what safer sex strategies you could implement.
  • Go to a reliable website to learn more about safer sex or make an appointment and learn how to protect yourself and make safer sex fun.

Sources: here and here

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Seriously: Win $1,000,000 If You Design the Perfect Condom


(c) Ozier Muhammad / The New York Times

(c) Ozier Muhammad / The New York Times

There was a New York Times article last week on the difficulties in getting people to use condoms and some new ideas being developed around the world to help stimulate condom use. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has offered $1,000,000 for the development of condoms that people will actually want to use. So far 500 applications have come in. It’s important work: around the world only 5% of men wear condoms and there are 2.5 million new cases of HIV infections each year, not to mention other STDs and unplanned pregnancies. 

Despite years of research and a vast array of products intended to make condom use more acceptable, the perfect one-condom-pleases-all has not been found. Not for lack of trying, mind! Complaints of tightness and friction have been addressed by roomier, ballooning models. Using polyurethane instead of latex as well as adding lubes to create different sensations has been tried with some success. Packaging has also been addressed in a variety of ways.

Who knows? Submit your design for an improved condom and maybe you will be the one to invent the perfect condom. How cool would that be!

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Condoms: Don’t Flush ‘Em!

Today, we’re re-rerunning an oldie but a goodie, all about the reasons why you should not flush your condom. Seriously – don’t do it!

condomtoiletAs a Sex Educator, I sometimes find myself on the phone with a complete stranger saying something like, “eh, I have kind of an unusual question…”  A few days ago I uttered those words when I called my local Water Reclamation Manager.  I asked him if he would take me on the journey of a flushed condom.

When I give a condom demonstration in the community, inevitably I have someone say, “why would I throw my used condom in the garbage when I can flush it down the toilet?” Here’s why:

When you flush a condom, there’s a chance that you could clog your toilet.  It might come back up immediately or when you least expect it, like when your boyfriend’s mom is over for dinner.  (It could also damage your septic system, if you don’t have city sewer.)  If you are lucky enough for the condom to clear your toilet, it is going to start traveling towards a water reclamation facility (WRF).  My source tells me that they rely on gravity and a downhill flow of the pipes to get the waste at least part of the way there.  Because many of the pipes stretch for miles, a pump is usually needed to get the waste all the way to the WRF.  This is potential problem area #2 (no pun intended).  Non-organic waste (condoms, diapers, feminine hygiene products, cigarette butts, cotton swabs, reinforced paper towels, etc.) often gets trapped in these pumps and someone has to go REMOVE IT BY HAND.  Ewww.  If the condom does make it through the pump, there’s another filtering process at the WRF, but my source says that sometimes, stuff gets through that process too.  He says that occasionally, you can find condoms and tampon applicators on the fields where reclaimed water is used to irrigate!  Double ewww.  I mean, who wants their delicious Florida strawberry growing inches away from a used condom?!

Here’s what you should do instead: wrap your used condom in toilet paper or a tissue and put it in the garbage.  Latex is biodegradable, but not in water.  The Water Reclamation Manager says that if you put it in the garbage, it will go to a landfill and/or be incinerated.  When they remove non-organic waste from the pumps or at the WRF, it also ends up at the landfill and/or is incinerated.  Here’s what should go down a toilet: #1, #2, and #3 (vomit).  We really don’t need taxpayer money replacing pumps all over town because people refuse to dispose of condoms properly.

An aside: When the Manager told me that the non-organic waste has to be removed by hand from the pumps, I told him that they aren’t paid enough for what they do.  “Actually,” he said, “this is a great career and we make a decent living…tell that to your readers.”

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Condom Excuses from Africa – A New Twist on a Familiar Tale

I’ve heard plenty of excuses before: they’re too small, it’s like wearing a raincoat, don’t you trust me, I want to feel the real you. But I heard a new one with a British twist when traveling in Africa. I was asking Debbie, the nurse for the Wilderness Safari Company, about condom use in Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. She said condoms are available everywhere but there is still resistance from some to using them, despite an extremely high rate of HIV and STI infection.
All three of these countries were colonies or protectorates of England, so people speak with a delightful British accent and use British words for some things, punctuate their sentences with “right,” and are very big on tea time in the morning and a ”sundowner” drink in the late afternoon.

“Would you want to eat your sweets with the wrapper on?” was a comment made to her during an educational session on condom use. Her plucky response was something like,“ Well, you can’t get HIV from your sweets but you can if you don’t use a condom.” I’d found a kindred spirit, indeed.

Another common excuse she heard that I’ve heard here, as well, is that using a condom is against the culture. Apparently, having sex outside of a supposedly committed relationship is OK there for some, as it is here. Another reason HIV continues to spread in all parts of the world.

Despite cultural variations, denial is universal.

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