Background Public health programs have sought to increase the use of condoms among persons at risk for transmitting or acquiring sexually transmitted infection. Although data from national health surveys have indicated increasing trends in condom use among adults since the onset of the HIV epidemic, little is known about recent national trends in usage.
Methods Questions on condom use at last sexual intercourse were added to the General Social Survey, a nationally representative survey of US adults 18 and older conducted in alternating years, beginning in 1996. Using data from 1996 to 2008, the prevalence of condom use at last intercourse was estimated, and trends and correlates of this measure were evaluated.
Results Across the 13-year period, condom use was reported by 20.2% of respondents during their most recent intercourse. Use was significantly higher for sex outside ongoing relationships as compared to within relationships, (46.4% vs 18.1%, respectively) and among those with 2 or more past-year sex partners as compared to one partners (44.7% vs 15.6%). A statistically significant increasing 1996–2008 trend in condom use was detected overall, but not for use within partnership type or by number of partners.
Conclusions Similar to other studies, condom use was more likely to be reported by persons most at risk; however, even among those at increased risk, fewer than half used condoms during most recent sexual intercourse.
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