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Ryan Piurek
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Monday, November 3, 2003

Hoosiers continue to support condom education in high schools, IU study says

NOTE: Reporters can contact Yarber at 812-855-7974 or until Wednesday (Nov. 5), after which he can be reached at the Marriott Riverwalk in San Antonio, 800-648-4462.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- In the midst of an ongoing national debate about condom education in schools, nearly eight out of 10 Hoosiers agree that Indiana public high schools should educate teenagers about how to use condoms to prevent the spread of HIV, according to survey findings from Indiana University.

The survey showed little change in this view over the past 10 years. It also indicated that eight out of 10 Hoosiers believe that all teenagers, regardless of whether or not they are sexually active, need information about how to use condoms correctly. Additionally, there was a strong consensus that this information should be medically accurate (94 percent agree) and determined by the majority of local parents (71 percent agree), and that classroom instruction should include condoms so students can see and touch them (71 percent agree).

"What we found was that here in Indiana, a traditional state, attitudes toward teaching correct condom use in high schools have remained virtually the same over the past 10 years, despite the contentiousness of the issue nationally," said William L. Yarber, principal investigator for the study, professor of applied health science and gender studies, and senior research fellow in the Kinsey Institute for Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana University Bloomington. "This concurs with national studies that have shown that most parents and teens think we should teach correct condom usage in high schools."

In studies done in 1993 and 1998, 79 and 75 percent of respondents, respectively, supported high school education on correct condom use for HIV prevention. This year's study indicated that 77 percent of Hoosiers shared this view.

Yarber said these findings could be used to bolster support for implementing instruction in public high schools on how to use condoms correctly. "If we are to believe that public opinion should be a major influence in public policy decisions, then it can be argued that Indiana public high schools should, in fact, educate teenagers about correct condom use," Yarber said.

The 2003 survey involved a series of 21 questions asked of more than 500 Indiana adult residents between July and October. The data were collected by a random telephone survey of the entire state conducted by the IU Center for Survey Research. Ten of the 21 questions were also asked in 1993 and 1998, allowing the researchers to determine if public opinion in Indiana had changed over the past 10 years about the availability, promotion, use and effectiveness of condoms for the prevention of HIV transmission. The 2003 survey's margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percent. Mohammad R. Torabi, chair of the IU Department of Applied Health Science, was the co-investigator for the study.

Yarber will present the survey findings at the annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, which will be held Nov. 6-9 in San Antonio, Texas. He received the Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award from the society last year for his research on adolescent and rural HIV/STD sexual risk behavior. The researchers plan to publish their findings in professional journals.

In light of recent efforts to discredit condoms and their effectiveness, Yarber said he is encouraged by the continued public support in Indiana for condom education in high schools. He also found there is an increasingly positive perception of condoms and teenagers who use them. To illustrate these changing attitudes, Yarber cited the following statistics:

  • 80 percent of Hoosiers disagree that a person who carries a condom has a lot of casual sex -- an 11-point increase from 1998.
  • 68 percent of Hoosiers disagree that promoting condom use is the same as promoting sex.
  • 82 percent of Hoosiers agree that teenagers who use condoms for sex are being responsible.
  • 82 percent disagree that telling high school students that condoms reduce the risk of AIDS and other STDs is the same as telling them a lie.

While they agree on many issues related to condom education, Hoosiers demonstrate "considerable ambivalence" when it comes to type of classroom instruction and condom availability in schools, Yarber said. Differences of opinion were found over whether classroom instruction should include objects so students can learn to correctly put on a condom (54 percent agree), whether condoms should be made available to high school students free of charge (46 percent agree) and without parental consent (46 percent agree), and whether the views of local teenagers should determine what information is taught in public high schools (48 percent agree).

"There's a major debate in society about condoms and whether young people should have access to this type of information that can protect their health," Torabi said. "There are a lot of people who are afraid to ask students what they want to know."

Yarber said there is work to be done in providing correct information about the overall effectiveness of condoms in preventing the transmission of HIV and other STDs. In the current survey, only 39 percent of Hoosiers said they believe condoms are very effective in preventing the transmission of HIV, although the percentage increased from 29 percent in 1998 and 21 percent in 1993. "Four out of 10 is really pretty low, but the percentage has increased despite a number of efforts to discredit condoms and to misrepresent information about their effectiveness," Yarber said.

For more information on the IU study, contact Yarber at 812-855-7974 or