Disrupted prevention: Condom and contraception access and use among young adults during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic. An online survey

Lewis, R. , Blake, C. , Shimonovich, M., Coia, N., Duffy, J., Kerr, Y., Wilson, J., Graham, C. A. and Mitchell, K. R. (2021) Disrupted prevention: Condom and contraception access and use among young adults during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic. An online survey. BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health, 47(4), pp. 269-276. (doi: 10.1136/bmjsrh-2020-200975) (PMID:33707178) (PMCID:PMC7956735)

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Abstract

Background: The initial response to COVID-19 in the UK involved a rapid contraction of face-to-face sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services and widespread use of remote workarounds. This study sought to illuminate young people’s experiences of accessing and using condoms and contraception in the early months of the pandemic. Methods: We analysed data, including open-text responses, from an online survey conducted in June–July 2020 with a convenience sample of 2005 16–24-year-olds living in Scotland. Results: Among those who used condoms and contraception, one quarter reported that COVID-19 mitigation measures had made a difference to their access or use. Open-text responses revealed a landscape of disrupted prevention, including changes to sexual risk-taking and preventive practices, unwanted contraceptive pathways, unmet need for sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing, and switches from freely provided to commercially sold condoms and contraception. Pandemic-related barriers to accessing free condoms and contraception included: (1) uncertainty about the legitimacy of accessing SRH care and self-censorship of need; (2) confusion about differences between SRH care and advice received from healthcare professionals during the pandemic compared with routine practice; and (3) exacerbation of existing access barriers, alongside reduced social support and resources to navigate SRH care. Conclusions: Emerging barriers to STI and pregnancy prevention within the context of COVID-19 have the potential to undermine positive SRH practices, and widen inequalities, among young people. As SRH services are restored amid evolving pandemic restrictions, messaging to support navigation of condom and contraception services should be co-created with young people.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:CONUNDRUM was jointly funded by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Lothian, in partnership with the Scottish Government. RL, CB and KM are supported by the United Kingdom Medical Research Council (Grant codes MC_UU_12017/11 and MC_UU_00022/3) and the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office (Grant code SPHSU11). MS is supported by the United Kingdom Medical Research Council (Grant codes MC_ST_U18004 and MC_UU_00022/2).
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Mitchell, Professor Kirstin and Lewis, Dr Ruth and Shimonovich, Ms Michal and Blake, Ms Carolyn
Authors: Lewis, R., Blake, C., Shimonovich, M., Coia, N., Duffy, J., Kerr, Y., Wilson, J., Graham, C. A., and Mitchell, K. R.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health
Publisher:BMJ Publishing Group
ISSN:2515-1991
ISSN (Online):2515-2009
Published Online:11 March 2021
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2021 The Authors
First Published:First published in BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health 47(4): 269-276
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
727631SPHSU Core Renewal: Relationships & Health Improvement Research ProgrammeLisa McDaidMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/11IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU
Relationships and healthMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_00022/3HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit
Chief Scientist Office (CSO)SPHSU11
Medical Research Council (MRC)MC_ST_U18004
Inequalities in healthMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_00022/2HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit