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Study shows the power of the media for encouraging condom use

Avert staff writers

06 September 2021

Unmarried men in Ghana who see or hear family planning messages in the media are 50% more likely to consistently use condoms

A man using a TV remote control
Photos are used for illustrative purposes. They do not imply health status or behaviour. Credit: iStock/SeventyFour

A study in Ghana has found that unmarried men exposed to family planning messages in the media are 50% more likely to use condoms than their peers.

The study looked at data from Ghana’s 2014 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) relating to 970 sexually active, never-married men (ages 15–64).

Unmarried men are often ignored in sexual and reproductive health research. But in Ghana and many other places, men often have the deciding say on contraceptive use. Understanding if unmarried men’s exposure to family planning messages affects condom use could help to inform new HIV and STI prevention initiatives.

The data suggests only one in four unmarried men (26%) consistently use condoms. Consistent use is defined as a man using condoms every time they had sex with their 3 most recent partners in the last 12 months.

But unmarried men who saw or heard family planning messages on the radio, television, newspapers or magazines in the last few months were 51% more likely to consistently use condoms than those who had not. This finding is in line with research in Kenya, Nigeria, and Senegal and shows the power of the media to influence people's attitudes and behaviour.

The study also found a link between condom use and age, level of education, income and location.

Men with the highest level of education were the most likely to consistently use condoms, while those with no formal education were the least likely to.

Men in the richest wealth bracket were more likely to consistently use condoms than those in the lowest wealth bracket.

Younger men (ages 15-24) were more likely to consistently use condoms than older men (ages 35 and over).

Men living in the central, northern and upper east regions of Ghana had higher rates of consistent condom use than men living in the western region.

These demographic findings are also in line with previous research. They show the need to increase awareness campaigns and other capacity building programmes to encourage older men, men who have low or no education, men with low incomes, and men in Ghana’s western region to consistently use condoms.

As the study was carried out using a survey format, researchers can only establish associations between variables and cannot prove cause and effect.

But the findings clearly show the need for new awareness campaigns to target different groups of unmarried men as part of Ghana’s public health strategy to end AIDS.

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