75 per cent of young Australians are not using condoms

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Authors of the report point to “social norms” to explain why so few young Australians are using condoms.

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A new report from the University of New South Wales has revealed 75 per cent of Australians aged 15-29 have not used a condom with a partner in the last 12 months.

Sixty nine per cent of this group engaged in unprotected intercourse with a regular partner while 24 per cent did not use condoms with a casual partner.

Almost two thirds, or 66 per cent of young people who had five or more casual partners in the past 12 months, did not use condoms.

“Social norms”

Researchers surveyed over 2,300 young Australians as a part of the National Debrief Survey to look into why sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are rising within the demographic.

“Contrary to what is often assumed, engaging in condomless sex is not related to a lack of knowledge about STIs,” said lead author Dr Philippe Adam from UNSW’s Centre for Social Research in Health.

“It is primarily due to social norms regarding the use of condoms that are only moderately supportive.”

In other words, not all young people think that their peers would expect them to use condoms.”

Wilful ignorance

While the survey found out that young people are well aware of the rise of STIs, only 58 per cent of young people had ever been tested for STIs or HIV.

Eighty nine per cent of participants reported seeing advertisements relating to sexual health but fewer than half (41 per cent) believed that it applied to them.

Researchers also observed a gender and sexuality gap within the results with heterosexual men scoring the worst when it comes to getting tested.

“Among respondents who ever had sex, testing for STI or HIV was found to be more frequent in females than in males (63 per cent versus 51 per cent),” Dr Adam said.  

“Similarly, the proportion of young people tested in the past 12 months was higher in females than males (40 per cent versus 31 per cent).”

It was also observed that participants that identified as LGBTQI+ were 10 per cent more likely to have been tested for STIs and HIV.

“A priority group who need to be convinced to test more regularly are heterosexual young men with a high number of sex partners. They tested less frequently than their LGBTQI+ counterparts with similar numbers of sex partners,” Dr Adam said.

“Increasing the uptake of testing for STIs will require further reducing some perceived barriers, including cost of testing, strengthening social norms regarding testing and further tailoring sexual health prevention to the needs of specific sub-groups.”

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