Condom use varies depending on partnership type. Generally, there is an inverse relationship between level of relationship commitment and condom use. While the status of partnerships can change at any time, condom use behavior may not. The purpose of this study was to quantify partnership changes and condom use within these relationships.
Methods: African American (AA) women aged 18-19 living in New Orleans were recruited from the community for a pregnancy prevention program. Women were administered a computer-assisted self-administered survey to elicit partnership type and condom use at baseline and again at 7 months.
Results: Of 155 partnerships named at baseline, 54.2% dissolved/woman did not acquire new partner(s), 22.6% were ongoing, and 23.2% dissolved/woman got new partner(s). At 7 months, condom use at last vaginal sex act was 37% for ongoing partnership and 71% for new partnerships. The categories of the 36 ongoing relationships were: boyfriends [BF] (64%), fiancÚ (11%), friend with benefits [FWB] (11%), ex-BF (11%), and wants relationship with [WRW] (3%). Of the 82 new partners, the most common categories were: BF (37%), FWB (37%) and just sex/not friend (23%). Of the ongoing relationships at 7 month, 25% had lesser commitment (e.g. BF to Ex-BF), 53% stayed the same and 22% had increased level of commitment (e.g. BF to fiancÚ). Condom use at last vaginal sex act for these ongoing relationships by status change was: diminished commitment (25%), commitment stayed same (53%), and increased commitment (13%), respectively.
High rates of partnership dissolution/acquisition were found. Among the ongoing relationships, one-quarter had a less committed status at follow-up and this group also had low condom use, contradicting the assumption of increased condom use with less intimate partners. Risk reduction interventions should consider the highly dynamic nature of young AA women’s relationships and emphasize risk reduction in ongoing partnerships.