- The Washington Times - Friday, July 8, 2005

A record 5 million people visited federally funded family planning clinics last year, a reproductive health research group reports.

The figure was 1 percent higher than in 2003 and “the highest client level ever reported,” said the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI), which presented its annual report to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The vast majority of clinic users traditionally are women. However, outreach efforts to men are paying off, as a third of the new clients were male.

This is “certainly a good sign,” as men should be involved in family planning, said Lawrence Finer, AGI associate director for domestic research.

The report also tracks current and past contraceptive use of female clinic visitors.

For 2004, it found that oral contraceptives continued to be the preferred choice, with 48 percent of women reporting use of pills. However, this is far lower than in 1995, when 62 percent of female clinic visitors said they used birth control pills.

As oral contraceptive use fell, condoms and injectable birth control products, such as Lunelle and Depo-Provera, have become more popular, the report said. In 1995, 12 percent and 13 percent of women reported using injectables or condoms, respectively. In 2004, usage for each method grew to 18 percent.

Another growing category is “other” forms of birth control, which increased to 8 percent in 2004 from not even registering a percentage in 1995.

“Other” forms of birth control include the Ortho Evra hormonal “patch,” Nuva Ring vaginal rings and sexual abstinence.

Clinics are not asked for details about the “other” category, but the Illinois Department of Human Services supplied it, noting that 10,381 women used the patch, 1,444 used the ring and 1,305 used sexual abstinence.

“There is a little bit of a substitution effect going on here,” Mr. Finer said of the changes in contraceptive use.

“If somebody had difficulty taking the pill every day, the patch and the ring require less user intervention,” but are about the same in cost and efficacy, he said.

Contraceptive methods with “0” percent usage in 2004 included hormonal implants, cervical caps, diaphragms and spermicidal products, AGI reported.

Other highlights of the report, which was released this week to the HHS Office of Population Affairs:

• In 2004, there were 4,568 federally funded family planning clinics with total revenues of $982 million. About 63 percent of funding came from the federal government, primarily from the Title X and Medicaid programs.

• The clinics conducted 5.4 million tests for sexually transmitted diseases and 530,569 tests for HIV/AIDS.

• About 4.8 million users were women and 244,381 were men.

• Half of clinic users were in their 20s and another 29 percent were in their teens.

• About 68 percent of users had incomes at or below the poverty level.

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