Teens Neglect Condom Use in 'Serious' Relationships

Young people underestimate STD risk from steady partners, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 23, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Teens are slightly more likely to use condoms when they have sex with a casual partner, compared to a partner they are more serious about, a new study finds.

"Unfortunately, this reveals that teens may overestimate the safety of using condoms most of the time with a casual partner and underestimate the risk of unprotected sex with a serious partner," study lead author Celia Lescano, of the Bradley Hasbro Children's Hospital Research Center and Brown Medical School, in Providence, R.I., said in a prepared statement.

As reported in the September issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, the study included more than 1,300 sexually active young people, ages 15 to 21, in Miami, Atlanta, and Providence. The participants were divided into two groups: 65 percent who said they'd had sex with their main partner only in the previous 90 days and 35 percent who said they'd had sex with at least one casual partner during that time.

Among those in the casual-partner group, 21.5 percent said they had had unprotected sex within the previous 90 days, compared to 19.2 percent of those in the main-partner-only group.

"We can conclude that, given these high rates of unprotected sex, teens in both groups may be at risk for contracting HIV and sexually-transmitted diseases," Lescano said.

Females were more likely to report main partners, while males were much more likely to report having casual partners. Those with casual partners reported greater substance abuse and riskier behaviors. Young people who said their main partners had negative reactions about condom use were less likely to use condoms, the study found.

"This study demonstrates the importance of understanding an adolescent's perception of partner types in order to design effective [HIV] interventions," Lescano said.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about condoms and sexually transmitted diseases.

SOURCE: Lifespan, news release, Aug. 23, 2006
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