“It’s 2013,” I recently overheard a woman say at a Brooklyn bar. “Who uses condoms anymore?” And I was like, what? Are you fucking crazy? I mean, sure, if you’re in a stable, committed relationship, you can rely on other means of pregnancy prevention for family-planning purposes, but if you’re a single person just out there picking up strangers, or even just sleeping through an established stable of partners, protecting yourself is as important now as ever before. It’s not like sexually transmitted diseases have gone away. And though HIV is no longer the quick death sentence it was in the early 80s, it’s, um, still definitely not a disease you want to contract!
But guess what? Less than a third of the four million sexually active New Yorkers used a condom during their last sexual encounter, according to new data from a city survey, the New York Post reports, which means there are millions of people are out there doing it unsafely. But the survey doesn’t distinguish between those in long-term relationships and those not, or those most at risk and those not. When looked at more closely, the data might not seem so alarming.
For example, Greenpoint has the lowest condom usage of any neighborhood in Brooklyn: only 14.2 percent of those surveyed used one the last time they had sex. But Greenpoint also has the highest number of people who have only had one sexual partner in the last year: 71 percent. (Play with the health data here.) On the other hand, Crown Heights/Bed-Stuy residents have the most sexual partners: 19.2 percent report having two or more. But those neighborhoods also have the highest rate of condom usage: 40 percent. (In 2011, those neighborhoods also reported the highest levels of gonorrhea and chlamydia.)
Other high-risk groups are also reporting high condom usage. “Condom use has been increasing in people at risk for HIV: from 49.4 percent in 2003 to 58.3 in 2012 among never-married persons,” a health department report stated. “In specialized surveys done of high-risk men who have sex with men in 2012, 79 percent of those surveyed in person and 57 percent of those surveyed online used a condom at last sex.” Those numbers could be much stronger, but they’re a good start.
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