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Lack of awareness pushing female condoms into oblivion

Posted on Jul 22 2014 | IANS

Washington, July 22 : Even after twenty years of introduction in the US, awareness about female condom is alarmingly limited among young adults, says a study.

Introduced first in the US in 1993, the female condom is one of just two barrier method contraceptives that can protect against sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies, yet many young adults are not aware about it, the findings showed.

Researchers discovered that few of the college-age study participants had ever seen or used a female condom.

"While there is research focused on female condoms in the context of sex work and in the context of older sexually active adults, there has never been a study that looked at how college-age young adults view the female condom," said Karishma Chatterjee, an assistant professor of communication studies at College of Liberal Arts, University of Texas at Arlington.

The study involved information sessions with 55 male and 94 female participants aged 18-24 years in same-sex small groups.

"Our aim was to learn about the characteristics of the female condom that are important to young college adults, and to identify how they view the device as a method of protection against sexual diseases and unplanned pregnancy," Chatterjee said.

"The findings suggest that design, lack of side effects, protection and convenience were important to the majority of college women," she noted.

While liking many design elements, the primary "dislikes" for both male and female respondents were also design elements - the female condom's size and appearance. Some participants noted its "large size" and disliked that there would be "less skin-to-skin contact."

"Both women and men must be considered when developing messages about the female condom, as partner acceptance is key in successful adoption of new sexual health technologies," said Charla Markham Shaw, an associate professor of communication at University of Texas.

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