opinion

COLUMN: This Valentine's Day, use a condom



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Valentine’s Day may be Feb. 14, but it also marks the start of National Condom Week in the United States.

The IU Health Center gives away condoms for free, but condoms also show up in surprising places. They can become a part of doodles, fashion and even art. In Bloomington they can even come with your pizza order

There are good reasons to use a condom. A male condom often costs less than a dollar,  is 98 percent effective at preventing pregnancy when used correctly and prevents HIV and sexually transmitted infections

As they say, “No glove, no love.” Yet despite all the benefits and availability of condoms, many people still have condomless sex.

A recent survey of 18-34-year-olds found that a common excuse for having sex without a condom includes “I’m not worried about STIs.”

Unfortunately, although some STIs are treatable, many go undiagnosed and can have serious consequences, such as infertility. HPV, the most common STI in the U.S., can cause multiple forms of cancer. Other STIs have no cure at all, such as herpes or HIV. When weighed against these risks, it seems like common sense to use a condom.

Changing the way we talk about condoms can make it easier to use them. One barrier to condom use may be lack of effective sex education. Sexual education is not a requirement in Indiana. Last year, Indiana passed a law that requires parental permission before instructing children on sex. 

An IDS columnist pushed against this law and critically analyzed the way we view sex education.

“[u]nlike politics or religion, which are unlikely to affect students’ health, sexual activity is an area where accurate and comprehensive education protects students from sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies.”

Parenting can also be a strong influence on condom use. An article published this year in Pediatrics followed African American and Latino father-son pairs and asked them about condom use. The study found that sons wanted more specific guidance on condom use, while fathers felt gaps in knowledge about sex limited their ability to teach their sons about condom use.

Conversations between partners are also important. Unlike other health behaviors that only depend on individual choices, it takes two to use a condom. A 2014 meta-analysis found that communication about condom use between adolescent partners significantly increased condom use.

Research from the Condom Use Research Team at the Kinsey Institute, in collaboration with Clue, a female health app, also shows the importance of women in determining condom usage.  

Their study found that about one in five women decide when to use a condom rather than their partner, and that three-quarters of the time, both partners make the decision. Male condoms are not necessarily male-controlled.

Many don’t realize the variety of condoms that are available. Another Kinsey Institute Condom Research Team project involved testing an at-home program that encouraged women to try different male condoms. After the program, participants reported decreases in condom use errors, increases in self-efficacy and more positive attitudes toward condom-protected sex.

Some condom companies advertise the importance of fit and choices. MyONE alone boasts 60 different sizes of male condoms.

The female condom was recently rebranded as the more gender-fluid internal condom. Thanks to new changes in regulations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, internal condoms are also becoming more available and recognized. 

There is a condom for every kind of love. So this Valentine’s Day, use one

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