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partners are more familiar with each other and when they are more alike, inconsistent condom use becomes more prevalent," Matser told Reuters Health in an email. "We should rethink of our current prevention strategies to promote condom use to see whether these methods are sufficiently capable of increasing awareness of the risk of acquiring STIs from partners who are more familiar."
Characteristics of individuals were also linked with condom use, for instance, less-educated men and women were more likely to use condoms inconsistently than those with a university degree. This was particularly true in steady relationships versus casual couplings.
Dutch women and men of non-Dutch ethnicity in steady relationships were also more likely to report inconsistent condom use than their counterparts.
Ireland points out that the authors did not strictly define "inconsistent" condom use. A couple that used condoms 95 percent of the time and a couple that used condoms 5 percent of the time would both be lumped in the same inconsistent use category. Still, she added, "inconsistent condom use and nonuse is really high," according to this study's findings.
The authors acknowledge that since the participants were recruited from visitors to a Dutch STI clinic, an inherently high-risk population, the study results may not be applicable to everyone.
They should hold true in western countries like the U.S. or the UK, according to Matser, "because norms and values in these countries do not differ much from the Netherlands."
Ireland said, anecdotally, the patterns seen in the study population may not be that much different among her own patients in the U.S., noting that people in longer relationships or those who are familiar with their sexual partners may be less likely to use condoms.
"In my experience, people tend to be motivated to use condoms when they feel they are at risk," she said, adding "the only way to be safe is to practice 100 percent condom use."
"If they're not using condoms with you, there's a chance they're not using it with other sexual partners," Ireland said.