Context: Misconceptions about STD-protective behaviors have not been studied before and after STD counseling. Further, to the best of our knowledge, the relationship of these misconceptions to condom use and STD incidence has not previously been described in published reports.
Objectives: The main purpose of the study was to determine the prevalence of misconceptions about STD prevention among STD clinic attendees (N=3498) in five large cities, as well as whether misconceptions decreased after STD diagnosis, STD counseling, or both. The study also identified predictors of persistent misconceptions and determined the relationship of STD incidence and unprotected sex to persistent misconceptions.
Methods: Data from a randomized controlled trial evaluating HIV/STD counseling interventions (Project RESPECT) were used for the present analyses. Participants completed an interview upon study enrollment and every 3 months following enrollment for a 1-year period. A portion of the interview assessed participants' misconceptions about STD-protective behaviors.
Results: At baseline, 16.3% believed that washing the genitals after sex protected from STDs. Likewise, urinating after sex (38.7%), douching (45.7%), and use of oral contraceptives (19. 9%) were believed to prevent STDs. Prevalence of misconceptions was significantly diminished at a 3-month follow-up (p<.001). Those continuing to have misconceptions were more likely to be aged > or = 24 and African American. Those continuing to have these misconceptions did not have higher STD incidence.
Conclusions: Misconceptions about STD-protective behaviors are common, and the event of an STD or STD counseling or both generally reduces these misconceptions. Although these misconceptions may not directly translate into risky behavior, they may preclude movement toward safer sex.