What is meant by “consistent” condom use?

Consistent condom use means using a condom 100% of the time during every sex act. Few individuals actually manage to use condoms consistently and correctly for any length of time. Typical condom use is inconsistent. Studies have shown that even in couples in which one partner is known to be infected with HIV, consistent use was attained by only 45% of participants.1

How do teens fare? A study conducted over a period of 6 months found that “always” condom use was reported by adolescent females only 13% of the time.2 In another study, just 50% of females reported consistent condom use.3 Generally, adolescent males report slightly more condom usage than females.4

Unfortunately, inconsistent condom use provides little to no risk reduction for most STIs. According to an NIH panel on condom effectiveness, even if 100% consistent condom use could be attained, it would not totally eliminate the risk of acquiring any STI, including HIV.5


1. Buchacz K, van der Straten A, Saul J, et al. Sociodemographic, behavioral, and clinical correlates of inconsistent condom use in HIV-discordent heterosexual couples. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr 2001;28(3):289-297.
2. Bunnell RE, Dahlberg L, Rolfs R, et al. High prevalence and incidence of sexually transmitted infections in urban adolescent females despite moderate risk behaviors. J Infect Dis 1999;180(5):1624-1631.
3. Crosby RA, DiClemente RJ, Wingood GM, et al. Value of consistent condom use: a study of sexually transmitted infection prevention among African American adolescent females. Am J Public Health 2003;93(6)901-902.
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Trends in HIV- and STD- related risk behaviors among high school students- United States, 1991-2007. MMWR 2008;57:817-822. Available at: http://cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/wk/mm5730.pdf. Accessed 2012 June 29.
5. National Institutes of Health. Workshop Summary: Scientific evidence on condom effectiveness for sexually transmitted infection prevention. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, US Dept of Health and Human Services; 2001.

Reviewed: June 29, 2012