Sexual Health Sexual Health Society
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REVIEW

Dual use of condoms and contraceptives in the USA

Jenny A. Higgins A B C and Anne D. Cooper A

A Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA.

B Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA.

C Corresponding author. Email: jenny.a.higgins@gmail.com

Sexual Health 9(1) 73-80 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/SH11004
Submitted: 14 January 2011  Accepted: 27 June 2011   Published: 7 November 2011

Abstract

Background: Use of condoms in conjunction with other contraceptive methods has multiple benefits: prevention of unintended pregnancy, protection against sexually transmissible infections (STI), and sequentially, defence against the threat of infertility. However, few reviews compare dual method use prevalence or trends or systematically review the facilitators and barriers of dual method use across multiple studies. Methods: The authors review the literature on trends and covariates of dual method use in the USA among both nationally representative and smaller samples. Results: Although dual method use prevalence estimates vary widely across study populations, nationally representative estimates are consistently lower than Western European countries, who in turn report lower rates of unintended pregnancies and STI. The majority of published work on dual method use focuses on adolescents. Prior studies have associated dual method use with a range of individual-level factors: socio-demographic variables, such as younger age; STI risk behaviours and risk perception; relationship variables, such as number of partners, relationship length, and partner support of condoms; and educational factors, such as prior exposure to HIV prevention messages. Conclusions: Although dual method use appears to be on the rise, especially among adolescents and young adults, US rates are comparatively low and leave much room for improvement. This review identifies several populations most in need of intervention. However, we encourage public health practitioners to evolve beyond individual-level studies and interventions to focus on the relational, socio-cultural, and structural influences on dual method use. Dual use promotion programs and policies should also equally target men and women, adolescents and adults.

Additional keywords: contraception, dual method use, dual prevention, pregnancy prevention, STI prevention.


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