Safe Sex is Better Sex: International Condom Day
by Isabel Oberlender
As Valentine’s Day approaches in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Austria, excitement is building for couples of every imaginable background. A holiday celebrating love and romance, festivities abound in the giving of flowers, boxes of chocolate, and as many people will blushingly admit, consensual intimacy. That is why it is important to celebrate International Condom Day, an informal holiday created to promote the use of condoms, on February 14th in conjunction with this beautiful commemoration of affection.
International Condom Day was created by an American acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) support group in the late 1980’s to encourage condom use and educate people about the importance of practicing safe sex. Since its establishment, the holiday has been fostered by a plethora of sexual health organizations including the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. The AHF also provides safe-sex awareness events worldwide in recognition of the holiday where free condoms are distributed in the hopes of preventing unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. The International Condom Day campaign by the AHF even includes a yearly theme. The 2015 theme, “Condoms Are Cool,” featured a parody of Pharrell William’s hit, “Happy,” to send the message that safe sex with consistent condom use can still be fun, exciting, and most definitely cool.
With all of this excitement surrounding male condoms, it is certainly a good idea to familiarize yourself with all other contraceptives (the birth control pill, contraceptive foam, the transdermal contraceptive patch, female condom, sponge, intrauterine device, and vaginal contraceptive film can all protect against pregnancy) and learn how protective each method is. Please be aware that each of these contraceptives varies in terms of effectiveness in protecting against pregnancy. The only listed contraceptive, other than the male condom, that protects against sexually transmitted diseases and sexually transmitted infections is the female condom.
In terms of reducing the risk of pregnancy as well as the risk of contracting STDs, consistent and correct usage of the male latex condom is highly effective. For individuals who are allergic to latex, there are synthetic, non-latex condoms widely available for use. Alternatives to latex condoms include condoms composed of polyurethane, polyisoprene, and natural membranes (lambskin). The female condom, or FC2, is also completely latex-free. It is important to note that non-latex condoms have higher breakage rates than latex condoms, and natural membrane condoms are not recommended for STD prevention.
To make the most of International Condom Day, it is also crucial to remember that safe sex is not limited to measures taken during vaginal intercourse. STDs and STIs may be contracted through oral and anal sex as well. According to Planned Parenthood, oral sex without a condom creates a high risk for passing chlamydia cytomegalovirus (CMV), gonorrhea, hepatitis B, herpes, syphilis, and human papilloma virus (HPV). Planned Parenthood also reports that anal and vaginal sex without a barrier method leads to a higher risk of passing chancroid, chlamydia cytomegalovirus (CMV), genital warts, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, herpes, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), human papilloma virus (HPV), pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), pubic lice, scabies, syphilis, and trichomoniasis.
International Condom Day reminds us all that safe sex is not only necessary on the most romantic day of the year, but every day we are intimate. With this information in mind, please remember to use a condom when engaging in oral, vaginal, and anal sex to protect yourself from STDs, STIs, and unwanted pregnancy.