Condoms. Rubbers. Raincoats. Sheaths. Love Gloves.
Prophylactics. Wetsuits. Willie Warmers.
Condoms. Despite all the fun, slang terms we have for this barrier method of birth control, they are just about the only method we have to prevent STI’s and HIV.
Wait. That is not a true statement….
ABSTINENCE is of course the ONLY way to prevent STI’s, HIV, and pregnancy. Period. However, abstinence isn’t being practiced by most of the adult population, whether one is elderly, middle-aged, LGBT, married, single, heterosexual….you name it.
Because most people do have sex, people need to be informed about safer sex practices to reduce the risk of STIs/HIV/pregnancy by using condoms.
There are many different kinds of condoms. For simplicity’s sake, I am going to refer to condoms as “male” and “female”. However, I want to make clear that I appreciate that some individuals with penises identify as “female”, and some people with vaginas identify as “male”.
Now, let’s get started.
-They protect best against STI’s transmitted via body fluids. They are not as effective against STI’s, such as herpes, that are spread with skin-to-skin contact.
-If you use a condom every time and use it correctly every time, then it is 98% effective. Unfortunately, most people don’t use it every time or use it correctly, so it’s 80-90% effective as a general rule. (National Institute of Health (NIH))
-They come in flavors (you know, the oral thing…) and colors, sizes, and textures.
-They are made from different materials. These include:
Latex Rubber: These are the most popular. They help protect against both STI’s/HIV and pregnancy. They are pretty inexpensive – about a buck a piece. However, some people are allergic to latex.
Polyurethane: These protect against both STI’s/HIV and pregnancy. Great for people who are allergic to latex. Not as tight-fitting, so some people like these better.
Sheepskin: Only protects against pregnancy. Because it is made of animal skin, it is porous, therefore those pesky little viruses and bacterium can sneak through the condom. Definitely a great option for a monogamous couple.
There are lots of different brands.
Trojan, Durex, and Lifestlyes are three major brands. There are lots of smaller companies as well. If you go to their websites, often there will be coupons available. Also, I have personally noticed some of these brands have donated their condoms to various organizations for free distribution, so kudos to them.
I want to make special mention of certain brands I have only recently become aware of. L. condoms seem really cool because they are manufactured and packaged in a “green” manner, which I love. But what I also appreciate is the idea that the company was started by a woman who wants to empower African women to have control over their sexual health to help prevent HIV. They also donate one condom to Africa for each condom sold. Oh, and get this, they actually have one hour delivery in the Los Angeles and San Francisco communities.
I also happened upon an article called “These 3 Condom Companies Want You To Save The World” by Cari Romm. She mentions not only the L. condom, which I was already familiar with, but also Sir Richards and Sustain Condoms. They have also begun programs to assist the underserved to help curb very preventable diseases and pregnancy. How awesome is that? (http://www.policymic.com/articles/83255/these-3-condom-companies-want-to-help-you-save-the-world).
-This condom is called the female condom, however it is a bit of a misnomer. Males can wear these as well to protect against STI’s/HIV when having anal sex. Therefore, this condom can be worn in the vagina or anus, by any sex
-This condom, when used correctly, is 95% effective. However most people do not use it correctly or do not use it every time they have sex, so its effectiveness goes down to 78-82%, according to the NIH.
-This type of condom is made from nitrile – which is latex-free.
-What I really love about this product is it empowers women to take charge of the condom issue.
-It can be inserted way before sexual intercourse – up to 8 hours – if the person wants.
-The female condom is called the FC2. You can find it online or at Walgreens.
With both the male and female condoms, you must use a lubricant if it is not pre-lubricated. Lubrication helps prevent breakage of the condom that can be caused by friction. You do not want even the most minuscule tear – those little viruses and bacterium are pretty sneaky! Also, do not double-up on them either – that also encourages tears because of the friction between the two condoms. That includes not using both the female and the male condom at the same time. And the tears will bring tears. And a little panic. So, use lubricant with the condoms. Oil- or petroleum-based lubricant can break down the latex, so it is best to use water-based lubricant with condoms.
I would like to mention something called a dental dam. This is a thin piece of latex rubber that is used during oral-vaginal or oral-anal sex to prevent the transmission of STI’s. If a person is in a pinch, non-microwaveable plastic wrap can work as well – but make sure there are no tears in it.
A few more bits of information you should know.
They aren’t expensive. About $1 to $4 a piece, depending on the brand, place of purchase, or material it is made from. (A WHOLE lot cheaper than antibiotics.)
Before using a condom, check the expiration date. If it is expired, do not use it. Get a new one.
Do not store condoms in really cold or really hot places. Room temp, please.
If a person stores a condom in their wallet, their body heat and frequent movement increases the risk of damage to the package. Rotate it out frequently.
Make sure the package is not deflated. If it is, there is probably a hole in the packaging…and maybe in the condom.
Put the condom on BEFORE your sexy bits touch your partner’s sexy bits. Otherwise, you’ve defeated the purpose.
Use it every time you have sex, and use it correctly. Read the directions and practice.
Don’t double up.
Use lube. Inside and outside the condom.
Finally … get tested! Condoms are terrific protection – but nothing is perfect!
How do you put on a condom?
There are lots of good online sites that can instruct, but I like Planned Parenthood and NakedTruth Idaho. The condom packaging also has instructions. Read it. Practice. (I won’t tell!!!)
Okay, I’ve done a LOT of name-dropping today. No, I don’t have any connections to anyone or any company. These just happen to be products and resources I am most familiar with. It doesn’t mean there aren’t other really great products out there – I’m sure there are lots! Heck, even Bill and Melinda Gates are out there encouraging the development of new condoms…they will have a cool product soon, I’m sure. So, no. I’m not encouraging the use of any of these products in particular. I just hope that when the need arises, people will use a condom. Any condom. Well, an intact, fresh condom – with some lube, please.
Know and Go Here:
https://www.sirrichards.com (Sir Richard)
http://www.policymic.com/articles/83255/these-3-condom-companies-want-to-help-you-save-the-world (Great article about three new condom companies)
http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/birth-control/condom (Planned Parenthood)
http://www.nakedtruth.idaho.gov (nakedtruth Idaho)
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/004002.htm (female condoms)
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/004001.htm (male condoms)