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Condom 'rivals pill's popularity'

20 October 09 10:41 GMT

The condom has now caught up with the pill as women's preferred method of contraception, latest figures suggest.

A quarter of the 1,093 women under 50 surveyed opted for condoms, which is identical to the proportion who plumped for the oral contraceptive pill.

Experts said the Office for National Statistics figures were good news since condoms prevent sexually transmitted infections as well as pregnancy.

Almost half of the condom users cited STIs as their motive for using them.

And half of the 2,557 people surveyed in England, Scotland and Wales said TV programmes and adverts had been their main source of information about STIs.

Sexual behaviour

However, more than half the men interviewed who said they were not in a long-term exclusive relationship, but had had a sexual relationship in the last year, said information on HIV and other sexually transmitted infections had no effect on their behaviour.

The majority of women under 50 (75%) were using contraception, with younger women preferring the pill or male condom, and older women often relying on sterilisation or their partner's vasectomy.

Almost all of the women surveyed said they had heard of the emergency contraception pill, or "morning after pill".

But awareness of the emergency intrauterine device (IUD), which can be inserted up to five days after intercourse, had fallen from 49% eight years ago to 40%.

Natika Halil of the Family Planning Association said: "It is encouraging to see that access to information about contraception and contraceptive services is improving.

"Whilst women are using very safe and reliable methods of contraception such as the condom and the pill, there are 15 methods of contraception available.

"Women should be able to access all of them in equal measure."

Victoria Sheard of the Terrence Higgins Trust said: "An increase in condom use is very good news as they offer double protection - against sexually transmitted infections as well as unwanted pregnancy.

"People should be aware of the rising rates of STIs when making a decision about contraception - ditching the condoms could leave you and potentially your partner at risk."

Meanwhile, the NHS Information Centre has found the number of people using NHS community contraception clinics rose by 7% to 1.3 million in the year to March 2009.

The biggest rise was among men with 13%, or 17,000, more attending in 2008/09 compared to the previous year, bringing the total to 140,000 - approximately one in 10 of all those attending.

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