The Austin Chronicle

International Condom Study Says Behavior Not Changing

about AIDS

December 12, 1997, Columns

Several years ago, the Student Health Center at UT made a study of risk behavior among returning students (freshmen, who we might assume to be more naïve, were not included). The study found that almost everyone had basic AIDS awareness, i.e., what HIV is, transmission, and prevention. About four-fifths were sexually active, typically with multiple partners in a given school year. Astoundingly, very few consistently used condoms. Given that these kids are supposed to be our brightest, I was dumbfounded. Now comes a massive worldwide study by the condom manufacturer Durex which essentially says our Longhorn neighbors are not alone in their denial. The survey, with "almost 10,000 sexually active people aged 16 to 45 in 14 countries," found that most people know the dangers of HIV/AIDS, but only about half have changed their sexual behavior. The Mexicans and the French are most concerned about catching HIV, and the French had the best consistent condom use rate at 26 percent. While we think of youth as typically being bigger risk-takers, Durex's survey indicates that they are more likely to change behavior than adults their parents' age. In the U.S., 96% of respondents knew about AIDS, and about two-thirds were worried about infection. Still, 44% had not changed their behavior, and only 13% could claim consistent condom use. For those who choose to be sexually active outside a monogamous relationship, correct and consistent condom use is highly effective in preventing HIV transmission. Seventeen years into this epidemic, our greatest frustration is that the further spread of this disease is completely preventable. It takes knowledge plus responsible behavior. No other vaccine is really required.

-- Sandy Bartlett

Information/Education Coordinator

AIDS Services of Austin

ASA Info Line: 458-AIDS

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