In campaigns to promote safe sex, the focus is usually on educating the public on the proper way to use condoms and the benefits of using condoms both effectively and consistently in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Most of these safe sex campaigns target young adults as reports issued by the Center for Disease Control have indicated that half of all new HIV infection cases each year are from the young adult age range. The physical aspect of condom usage is addressed in these condom promotions; however, we rarely hear about the emotional aspect of using condoms.
A new study by a partnership between researchers from the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and the Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center discovered that in order to fully reach the young adult population in terms of safe sex education, more must be done to help this age group better deal with their emotions. This study consisted of 222 young adults (ages 13 through 18) who currently deal with various mental disorders. The researchers question to answer was whether or not feelings mattered when it came down to having safe sex. Their study revealed that, in fact, emotions do play a large part in whether or not a young adult practices safe sex. In their findings, those young adults who struggled with their own sense of self-worth were further stressed with the idea of bringing up condom usage in a sexual encounter, thus making safe sex questionable.
The lead researcher Celia Lescano states, “We found that adolescents need help feeling more comfortable and less distressed about discussing and using condoms.” If a young adult has a good sense of self-worth or self-confidence, they are more prone to feel that what they do or what they say can and will make a difference in their own life; thus, those young adults in the study who felt comfortable and adept at using condoms had very little difficulty in using condoms consistently, despite the fact that they might be feeling upset or unhappy at the time. Lescano and her fellow researchers stress that these feelings of inadequacy in terms of condom usage are not only reflections of those who have psychiatric disorders, but rather young adults as a whole.
Lescano states, “As it turns out, managing the stresses associated with condom use is important. Adolescents can learn to decrease their anxiety about discussing and using condoms in order to use them safely and effectively. Going forward, helping teens decrease distress and increase their effective skills is a critical component to HIV prevention strategies.” Because of this, these researchers strongly feel that while the practical use of condoms is a great education tool, it should be coupled with education on managing emotions in order to be a truly effective safe sex campaign. Lescano says it best: “Using active strategies to deal with how well one manages the distress that arises in the face of a difficult situation such as asking one’s partner to use a condom should be a priority for HIV intervention programs.”
Tags: education, psychology, safe-sex-discussion, self-esteem, young-adults