Background The effectiveness of condoms in preventing sexually transmitted infections (STI) including HIV depends on consistent and correct use.
Aims To examine associations between demographics, STI risk, condom proficiency, condom problems and STI acquisition among MSM and to direct discussion and debate towards thinking about how and why it might be important to improve condom use skills.
Methods Cross-sectional surveys of MSM were conducted in GUM clinics and commercial gay venues in Summer 2010. The self-completed, anonymous questionnaires recorded data on socio-demographic variables, numbers of unprotected anal intercourse (UAI) partners in the preceding year, STIs diagnosed over the previous year and self-reported condom problems and condom proficiency.
Results 792 respondents provided data with an overall response rate of 70% (n=459 clinic sample, n=333 community). Number of UAI partners was the strongest predictor of self-reported STI acquisition over the previous 12 months. Demographic characteristics were not associated with self-reported STI diagnosis. However, condom proficiency score was associated with self-reported STI acquisition in the previous 12 months. Condom problem score was also associated with self-reported STI diagnosis in the clinic but not community sample. Condom problem score remained associated with STI diagnosis after adjusting for number of UAI partners with logistic regression.
Discussion This study identified a measure of condom use associated with likelihood of STI diagnosis when controlling for number of UAI partners. Targeting those who experience condom problems may improve overall frequency and consistency of condom use among MSM; in turn reducing likelihood of STI acquisition. This could involve developing condom problem scales into screening tools for STI risk. Accordingly we encourage further research to determine the value of condom use training as a potential intervention to improve sexual health among MSM.
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