Men hold both positive and negative beliefs about strategies for preventing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), but are most positive about monogamy, according to "Heterosexually Active Men's Beliefs About Methods for Preventing Sexually Transmitted Diseases," by Mary Rogers Gillmore et al., published in the May/June 2003 issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. The men surveyed believed that mutual monogamy would help them build trust and respect with their partner, show their love, avoid STDs and satisfy their partner.

The study authors surveyed nearly 500 men aged 19-40 in a large urban county in the northwestern United States to gather information on men's beliefs about abstinence, mutual monogamy between uninfected partners, and male and female condom use to reduce the risk of STD transmission. Although men believed abstinence would likely protect them from STDs, they felt it would be sexually frustrating and would interfere with having a close relationship. Similarly, although men believed that the use of male condoms would protect them against STDs and give them control over preventing pregnancies, they said it would reduce their physical pleasure. However, men in new or casual relationships were more likely to see the benefits of condom use than were men with steady partners, while men with steady partners were more likely to opt for monogamy over condoms.

Heterosexual transmission accounted for the largest increase in the number of reported AIDS cases in the United States between 1996 and 2000. This study suggests that monogamy may be a viable prevention strategy; however, efforts focusing on monogamy will have to address the study's finding that men are concerned about missing out on sex with other partners and that partners may be unfaithful. In addition, at some point a monogamous partner was a new or casual partner, so prevention programs must also help couples decide when it is reasonably safe to stop using condoms in a monogamous relationship. However, a recent analysis of existing studies shows that even married couples are at risk for STDs as a result of infidelity.

To learn more about the family planning problems facing married couples in the United States, click here.

Also in this issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health:

• "When and Why Do Young People in the United Kingdom First Use Sexual Health Services?" by Nicole Stone and Roger Ingham;

• "Effects of Psychosocial Risk Factors and Prenatal Interventions on Birth Weight: Evidence from New Jersey's HealthStart Program," by Nancy E. Reichman and Julien O. Teitler;

• "Child Disability and Mothers' Tubal Sterilization," by Jennifer M. Park et al.; and

• Viewpoint: "Access to Adolescent Reproductive Health Services: Financial and Structural Barriers to Care," by Linda Hock-Long et al.