With the rise of HIV/AIDS in the decade of the 80s and absence of curative treatment, more and more emphasis was put on the protection from the infection. The use of condoms, formerly mainly as a contraceptive method, was promoted as a protection against not only HIV infections but other sexually transmitted diseases. It gained acceptance amongst people as a frequently used method, but recent statistics show a decline in the use of condoms more in teenagers and young adults. This waning trend is reflected in the data shared in the CDC annual report (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) released in the first week of October 2017. Statistics show that overall incidence of the sexually transmitted diseases has progressively increased in the preceding three years (2014, 2015, and 2016). A survey has also shown that more than 40% of teenagers in the USA do not use condoms or any other protection during sexual activity. These figures instigate a need to probe into the causes and mitigations of this trend. It is pertinent to note that the current opioid crises may be directly related to these unsafe-sex practices. We know that there are several determinants of the high-risk profile of a teenager or a young person these include; homelessness, drug use, unsafe sexual practices, unwanted pregnancies and higher crime rates. Hence, younger populations who are opioid addicts or other drug users are at high risk of not using condoms during sexual activity. A study on women enrolled in addiction treatment programs found that more than 90% respondents had at least 1 “unprotected” sexual encounter (no condom use) in the 3-months before enrolling in rehabilitation.
Non-adherence to the use of condoms in teenagers also has social tinges; young people take the advice to use condom as a way of disapproving their sexual behavior and experimentation, and they retaliate by choosing not to follow the practice.
Another factor identified is the availability of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to homosexual men, which gives them a false sense of security and they refrain from condom use. Although PrEP keeps people from becoming HIV-positive, the risk of other STDs still is there.
For promoting use of condoms, their value in preventing sexually transmitted diseases must be emphasized as part of health education and ensuring equitable access to at-risk population.