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Last modified: Thursday, November 10, 2005

Condom use errors frequently reported by rural Indiana men

Indiana University survey points to need for better condom information

Nov. 10, 2005

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Condom use errors, such as putting it on wrong or wearing one only part of the time, were frequently reported during a recent survey of rural Indiana men. Loss of erection either before or during sex was the biggest problem associated with condom use, a concern for health experts because it could discourage further condom use by the couples involved.

The survey results point to a need to expand public health messages regarding condoms to emphasize the need to use them correctly, not just consistently, and to make them an erotic part of sexual activity.

"Most research explores whether condoms are used consistently," said William L. Yarber, senior director at Indiana University's Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention and a researcher at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction. "We've found that's just part of the issue of condoms being an effective contraceptive and STD barrier."

The telephone survey asked 75 rural men ranging from age 18 to 65 about their condom use experience the last time they had sex with a woman. RCAP and the Kinsey Institute have conducted other surveys to assess condom use errors, including a survey of college students several years ago. Studies have shown that people who make more errors have higher rates of STD infection. The latest survey findings were published last week in a special edition of the Health Education Monograph Series, the journal of the Eta Sigma Gamma National Professional Health Education Honorary.

Here are some of the findings:

  • 42 percent of the men surveyed did not use a condom from the start and/or to completion of penetrative sex.
  • 23 percent did not leave a space at the receptacle tip.
  • 11 percent reported loss of erection either before sexual activity began (5 percent), during (8 percent) or both.
  • 81 percent did not use a water-based lubricant.
  • 1 percent reported the condom broke.
  • 1 percent reported it slipped off.

Information about condom use is most readily available through government Web sites and health clinics. Yarber said little of the information involves detailed discussions of the correct way to use condoms.

In Indiana, public schools are required to teach abstinence as the only way to avoid pregnancy. School staff, however, are permitted to teach students about other issues involving sexuality, such as contraception. In a 2003 RCAP survey of 517 Indiana residents, the vast majority of respondents reported support for public high schools providing information about the correct use of condoms. The telephone survey also found strong support for the use of condoms among teenagers and the promotion of condoms by the media and the federal government. The research, published in the September issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, suggested that Indiana public high schools consider providing information on correct condom use, that only medically accurate information be taught, and that actual condoms be included in the instruction so students could see and touch them.

For more information about the 2003 survey, visit

Created in 1994, RCAP focuses on HIV/STD prevention in rural America, with the goal of reducing HIV/STD incidence. For more information, visit

Yarber, a professor in the Department of Applied Health Science in IU Bloomington's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, can be reached at 812-855-7974 and