For a majority of the population, Feb. 14 is recognized and celebrated as Valentine’s Day.
Ironically, one of the most romantic dates of the year is also known as International Condom Day. Since 2009, the informal health observation, promoted by advocacy groups, such as AIDS Healthcare Foundation, is a reminder about the importance of sexual health.
It is also a great time to talk with your partner and kids about condom use and safe sex. The use of condoms makes sense for the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The latex, non-latex, lambskin and even female condoms are essential to a healthy sex life.
“It is one of the most inexpensive forms of protection and prevention if used properly and consistently,” said Ged Kenslea, senior director of communications for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
Talking about sex, especially safe sex, can be embarrassing and daunting.
To start the dialogue, here are a few talking points. Discuss using condoms before engaging in sex. Suggest getting tested before saying yes and encourage the use of condoms to prevent pregnancy.
Other topics to bring into the conversation are: condoms come in more than 60 sizes and a comfortable fit is available; using condoms prevents the transmission of diseases especially when many people have no idea if they have been exposed to an infection; and knowing your status and protecting it gives you and your partner peace of mind.
“This year, AIDS Healthcare Foundation will produce at least 117 events worldwide, and 40 in the 15 states where we operate, to raise awareness and encourage the use of condoms for protection and prevention,” Kenslea said. “People can go to some of the AHF locations for free testing and condom distribution.”
Despite the fact that 5 billion condoms are used worldwide every year, the Center for Disease Control reports there are more than 19.7 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases in the U.S. each year. Condom use is more important than ever when a survey found that by the 12th grade, 65 percent of high school students will have engaged in sexual intercourse, and one in five sexually active teens will have had four or more sexual partners.
The excuses to avoid condom use vary from cost to comfort. The top excuse, “the mood will be ruined.”
A response could be, “let’s find ways to eroticize condom use.”
Here are a few myth busters:
Myth: Condoms are too expensive.
Truth: There are lots of health organizations, health departments, events and advocates that distribute condoms for free. AHF distributes two condom brands LOVE and ICON. Both are high quality, free to the public and available at many of their locations such as Out of the Closet stores.
Myth: Size doesn’t matter when it comes to condoms.
Truth: When it comes to condoms, proper size really does matter. From years of scientific research and customer reviews, we know that length and width varies a lot, but current condoms available on the U.S. market do not cover a large range of sizes. In fact, current condoms on the U.S. market properly only fit about 12 percent of condom users. Common complaints include the condom being too loose, tight, long or short, resulting in loss of erection, de-sensitivity and difficulty achieving orgasm.
Shoes and pants come in different sizes, so why not condoms?
“We believe that condom fit is the next great frontier when it comes to increasing use and acceptability,” said Davin Wedel, founder and president of ONE Condoms. “We produce a condom line of 60 sizes.”
Condoms come in all sizes, textures, colors, and flavors.
“The main point is keep the fun in your relationship but find what works for you and your partner,” Kenslea said. “AHF is pro sex but we want people to be accountable and be safe.”
Myth: There’s an age limit to purchase condoms.
Truth: There is no age limit to purchase condoms.
“I have used them ever since I started having sex at the age of 18,” Todd Keith said. “I felt like I had done enough research about sex and condoms to actually start using them.”
Keith is a fan of the ONE Condom Vanish hyperthin condoms.
“It really feels like there is nothing there,” he said. “But for me, it also eases my mind knowing that something can feel so natural but still keep me protected.”
Myth: Lubrication is only for older people.
Truth: Lubrication can enhance your sex life at any consenting adult age. Using lubrication will help reduce the risk of your condom breaking during use. Put a drop of lube both inside and outside the condom for enhanced sensation.
Myth: You can use oil-based lubricants with latex condoms.
Truth: Do not use oil-based lubricants, such as those made with petroleum jelly (e.g., Vaseline), mineral oil, vegetable oil, or cold cream, as they may damage the latex. Use lubricants that are water-based or silicone-based.
Kidshealth.org offers information about how to choose and use a condom. Among the tips:
- Check the expiration date (condoms can dry and crack if they are old).
- Choose condoms made of latex, which is thought to be more effective in preventing diseases. If allergic to latex, use polyurethane condoms.
- Open the condom packet with your hands, not your teeth, and open it carefully so you don’t tear the condom.
- Choose a condom with a reservoir tip to catch semen after ejaculation. Lightly pinch the top of the condom and place it on your man. This gets rid of trapped air, which can cause a condom to burst.
- Roll the condom down until it’s completely rolled out — if it’s inside out, throw it away and start over with a new condom.
- Remove the condom immediately after ejaculation, and hold the condom at the bottom while he withdraws to prevent the condom from slipping off.
- Slide the condom off, keeping the semen inside. Since condoms can clog the toilet if they are flushed, tie it off or put in a plastic bag (so it’s not a health risk for others) and throw it out.
With brand names like Beyond Seven, Crown, Fantasy, Rough Rider and the household name Trojan, there is no reason not to find what can enhance the magic in your world of intimacy.
Bottom line, enjoy your love life and keep condoms on hand so there is no excuse not to use them if the situation arises.
So the next time, a condom falls out of a purse, back pocket or wallet, instead of being suspicious, applaud the individual for being prepared to enjoy safe sex.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation – www.aidshealth.org
American Sexual Health Association – www.ashasexualhealth.org
Free Condoms – www.useacondom.com/free-condoms
Free HIV Test – www.freehivtest.net
Free STD Check – www.freestdcheck.org
Global Protection – www.globalprotection.com
How to Use a Condom – www.useacondom.com
How are Condoms Made? https://youtu.be/INaEdw5OTxI
Kids Health – www.kidshealth.org
One Condoms – www.myonecondoms.com
Marie Y. Lemelle, MBA, a public relations consultant, is the owner of Platinum Star PR and can be reached on Twitter @PlatinumStar or Instagram @PlatinumStarPR. Send “Health Matters” related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and look for her column in The Wave.