To Use or Not to Use

A Stage-Based Approach to Understanding Condom Use Among Homeless Youth

Published in: AIDS Care, v. 26, no. 5, 2014, p. 567-573

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2013

by Joan S. Tucker, Allison J. Ober, Gery W. Ryan, Daniela Golinelli, Brett Ewing, Suzanne L. Wenzel

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This study used a stage-based approach to understand condom use behavior in a representative sample of 309 sexually active homeless youth recruited from shelters, drop-in centers, and street sites in Los Angeles County. Focusing on the youth's most recent sexual event, the three stages of condom use examined were: (1) whether the partners decided prior to the event about using condoms; (2) whether a condom was available at the event; and (3) whether a condom was used at the event. Logistic regression analysis was used to identify attitudinal, relationship, and contextual correlates of each of these three stages. Deciding ahead of time about condom use was associated with being Hispanic, level of education, condom attitudes, and various relationship characteristics (e.g., partner type, monogamy, relationship abuse), with the nature of these associations varying depending on the type of decision (i.e., deciding to use, deciding to not use). Condom availability was more likely to be reported by males, if the event was described as being special in some way, or if the event lacked privacy. Condom use was more likely among youth with more positive condom attitudes and among youth who decide ahead of time to use a condom, but less likely among those in monogamous relationships or when hard drugs were used prior to sex. Whether sexual intercourse is protected or unprotected is the end result of a series of decisions and actions by sexual partners. Results from this study illustrate how condom use can be better understood by unpacking the stages and identifying influential factors at each stage. Each stage may, in and of itself, be an important target for intervention with homeless youth.

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