Isn't it ironic, as Alanis Morissette sings, that Condom/STI Week began on Valentine's Day? It's like your honeymoon night - you're expected to have penetrative sex that night irrespective of how drunk, virginal, petrified or tired you feel. Valentine's Day brings the same expectations. If you're in a 'coupleship', sex is on the table together with the roses and champagne. And if you're single, you may have over swiped Tinder and Grindr to ensure you get some nooky on VD. Condoms and STIs are not on your mind.
STI/Condom Week is a health awareness campaign by the South African government to promote safer sex and curb the spreading of STIs/ HIV/AIDS. Globally there are 19 million new sexually transmitted infections (STIs), with young people ages 15-24 accounting for almost half of them. STIs have been associated with pelvic inflammatory disease, adverse pregnancy outcomes, cervical cancer, infertility, and multiple reproductive tract sequelae. Im sure you agree that it is a good idea to have a week of condom awareness. Whether or not it has any impact is unknown. I ask you to consider the impact, or lack thereof, of condoms on you.
Your Condom Avoidance Justifications
- I'm married
- I am monogamous
- I am celibate
- They break and are unsafe
- I'm circumcised
- I'm on ARV's
- I'm on PREP
- Female condoms suck
- I'll loose my erection
- My partner will accuse me of cheating
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) contribute largely to the burden of health in South Africa and are recognised as major contributors to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) epidemic. An estimated 7 million people were living with HIV in 2015. In the same year, there were 380,000 new infections while 180,000 South Africans died from AIDS-related illnesses.
Young women and sex workers are particularly vulnerable to STIs as are gay and bisexual men who have sex with men. Considering that once you begin sexual activity your chances of becoming infected with a STI are high, you would imagine we would all be grabbing condoms off every shelf. Even the multi-flavoured brightly coloured condom range in the flavours of strawberry, banana and grape which were introduced last year by the Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to encourage young people to have safer sex.
Sounds like a no brainer, right?! Then how come the rate of HIV keeps rising and STIs are globally out of control? You're not using condoms correctly and consistently.
After 25 years of condom chatting, begging, negotiating and educating people, I no longer feel aggrieved that people won't follow this simple: "Use a condom" formula. I like to think I'm a little wiser now.
Using a condom symbolises all that is complex and exciting in sexuality. It requires a variety of skills, confidence and sexuality education that most people lack.
Your Condom Obstacles
- Where to buy a condom. Stigma continues to inhibit purchasing of condoms across all age groups. Especially young people who have to reach across or ask an assistant to pass them a pack of condoms. Vending machines and online purchases make this easier.
- The brand of condom is important as a sign of status. This costs money. Free government issued condoms are seen as inferior and infer a feeling of lesser satisfactory sex.
- Most popular choice of condoms are "delay" or "extra large" size... Need I say more? It smacks of inadequacy and the need to perform.
- There is a lack of dialogue due to gender inequity. Women take a huge risk when stating their boundary: 'No glove, no love'. Men may accuse them of cheating, being untrustworthy or being infected.
- Uncertainty of how and when to use a male condom.
- Lack of availability, high cost and low knowledge about female condoms
- Sex and alcohol mean fun. Unfortunately alcohol and drugs lower motivation and responsibility, so this increases risk of no condom use.
- Performance anxiety as a man looks at a condom and loses his erection. Manage your anxiety, get sexually confident and don't blame the condom.
- "I never expected it to happen". Penetration frequently happens unplanned as many people try avoid it due to religious or cultural restrictions. Hence no condoms carried.
- Familiarity lulls one into condom complacency. Committed couples are less committed to practicing safe sex, one study finds. According to research, couples in serious relationships are only using condoms 14 percent of the time, as opposed to couples in casual relationships using them a little more than 33 percent of the time.
- Am I in a relationship? Many young people are careful to use condoms with casual partners, but a new study suggests that they are less so with their main partner. The problem, the researchers found, is that it is common for many young people to be in what they consider a committed relationship but still have sex with other people.
- Infidelity challenges condom use. Despite the emphasis on an ideal culture of trust, a real culture of infidelity exists.
- Cyber Infidelity: My research showed that couples chatting online very quickly built a feeling of hyper personal intimacy. Thus when meeting online, trust was established and the need for condoms not even discussed.
- Define your intimacies. Ask: Are we in a consensual monogamous/non-monogamous marriage, non consensual - non-monogamous situation, casually hooking up, dating. STIs are currently one of the largest public health problems facing people globally. Defining your status helps cut down on infections. It forces you to talk and if you can't talk because you're too drunk or stoned, just use condoms.
- If you are a man who has sex with men, keep your dick covered always. No amount of PREP can protect you from all the STIs.
- Circumcision, PREP and condoms all protect and prevent HIV/STIs. However using condoms is always essential.
Condoms symbolise adulthood, a sexual symbol of your right, responsibility and anticipated rewards of being a sexual person. Use them.