Guest Author - Jason P. Ruel
Condoms. They are made of many different materials. They come in many colors and textures. They are meant to protect you against pregnancy and transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Why should you consistantly use them?
Condoms are a contraception method, or barrier, that can prevent pregnancy and the exchange of bodily fluids like blood, semen, and vaginal fluids, only when used properly. This is important to consider since the primary routes to STD transmission and pregnancy is the passage and exchange of these bodily fluids. While non-adequate research and misinformation in health classes and education programs has caused debate about the effectiveness of condoms, research continues to show that condoms are effective and one of the best methods available in helping the prevention of pregnancy and transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.
The CDC (Center for Disease Control) recently put out some blurbs (PSA's) about consistant condom usage. Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are highly effective in preventing the transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. In addition, correct and consistent use of latex condoms can reduce the risk of other STDs. Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, can reduce the risk of transmission of gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis. Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, can reduce the risk of genital herpes, syphilis, chancroid, and HPV only when the infected areas are covered or protected by the condom. The use of latex condoms has been associated with a reduction in risk of HPV-associated diseases, such as cervical cancer.
So what is this whole "correctly and consistantly" schtick all about? Exactly that a person must correctly use and consistantly use condoms in order for them to be effective the way we want them to be. If we incorrectly use them, or don't consistanly use them, the chances of pregnancy and STD transmission goes through the roof.
One of the many reasons for incorrect or inconsistant use is people fear breakage or it falling off during sexual activity. While this is a genuine fear, it should be noted that not all "accidents" are harmful. As many as 24 to 65 percent of these "accidents" occur before intercourse and pose no biological risk of pregnancy or STD infection if a new condom is used for intercourse. Note how that this is BEFORE intercourse, not during. The bottom line, pay attention and always be aware.
A couple interesting fact about breakage and slippage of condoms: Breakage rates during anal sex for gay men in four prospective studies ranged from 0.5 percent to 12 percent, with rates less than two percent in three of the studies. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health observed female sex workers in Nevada brothels, where condom use is required by law, and found that of 353 condoms used by the sex workers during the study, none broke or fell off during intercourse, and only two (0.6 percent) slipped off during withdrawal. Studies have reported breakage rates during vaginal intercourse ranging from zero percent to 6.7 percent. Most studies report that condoms break less than two percent of the time during intercourse or withdrawal. Condoms fall off the penis in 0.6 percent to 5.4 percent acts of vaginal intercourse and may slip down the penis without falling off in 3.4 percent to 13.1 percent of acts of vaginal intercourse.
Research shows that consistent condom use among sexually active individuals has increased. In 2001, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Summaries found that among currently sexually active students in grades nine through 12 nationwide, 57.9 percent reported that either they or their partner had used a condom during last sexual intercourse compared to 58.0 percent in 1999, 56.8 percent in 1997, 54.4 percent in 1995, and 52.8 percent in 1993. The National Survey of Family Growth reported that 20 percent of American women 15 to 44 years of age reported using a condom in 1995 compared to 15 percent in 1988 and 12 percent in 1982.
This is good news. We need to make sure that we protect ourselves by consistantly using condoms. They are one of the most effective barriers to pregnancy and STD transmission. In our last Condoms 101 article, we will explore correct use of condoms.
BellaOnline's Gay Lesbian Editor