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Let's Talk About Condoms

close up of condomsRubbers, raincoats, slicks, sheaths, love gloves…condoms are known by some colorful nicknames, but just like Shakespeare said about roses… by any other name a condom is still a condom and people need to know the facts. When used correctly, condoms are one of the most effective birth control methods on the market, and unlike other contraceptives they’ve been proven to be effective in preventing most sexually transmitted infections (STI) and HIV/AIDS.

Talking about sex isn’t always easy, but try to put any discomfort you have aside, read this article  and be prepared to talk frankly about the importance of condom use. Think of the consequences of not providing this information to the women and families you serve, your own teens or young adult children, or others in your life. Having a candid conversation about condoms could help someone avoid an unintended pregnancy or even prevent them from contracting a deadly disease.

Condom Conundrum

Okay, so a woman is in your office or clinic and she is looking for information about birth control. Perhaps she is uncomfortable bringing up the topic. Maybe she has questions she wants to ask, but is too embarrassed. You need to create a trusting and relaxed atmosphere that makes it possible to have a meaningful and informative conversation. Women need to know all their options. Whatever contraceptive choice they make to prevent a pregnancy, they need to know that if they are having sex, condoms are still the best way to prevent sexually transmitted infections.

You might want to suggest that a woman discuss condom use with her partner long before they are in a situation where they might need one. Caught up in the moment, people might feel pressured to do something they will regret later. Suggest that she buy condoms, perhaps a few varieties and types to see what might work best.

So what if the woman wants to use a condom, but her male partner doesn’t? There are a lot of excuses out there for not using a condom.  You’ve probably heard many of them. He says, “It doesn’t feel as good with a condom,” or, “It interrupts everything and puts me out of the mood.” How can you counsel someone to respond to these? The How to Persuade Your Woman holding a condom while in bed with partnerPartner to Use a Condom handout provides you with ways to respond and address the excuses; it can also be printed and given to the women you see.

The "How to Persuade…" handout has been incorporated into the “Ready, Set, Plan!” curriculum, developed by the North Carolina Healthy Start Foundation, for the Are You Ready? First Time Motherhood/ New Parent Initiative. This federally funded project is coordinated by the N.C. Division of Public Health and focuses resources in six northeastern North Carolina counties (Edgecombe, Gates, Halifax, Hertford, Nash and Northampton) for two years with the goal of engaging individuals and community groups to make positive changes that contribute to healthier lifestyles. For more information about the New Parent Project go to:

Don’t Be Condumb—Use Them!

Once all the talking is done, it’s time for action! It’s important to stress that proper condom use is essential. Here are some useful tips you should share:

Fun Condom History Facts

You might be interested to know that condoms have been around for a long time. The earliest known image of a sheathed penis is found in cave paintings dating back to 15,000 B.C. These sheaths also appear in the art and literature of ancient Egypt, Greece and India. There’s not a lot of clear documentation on the subject however, until the time of the Roman Empire. Condoms were common in Europe by Shakespeare’s day (late 16th century). The first documented condoms were hand-sewn pieces of linen. A drawstring like ribbon held the condom on to the penis during intercourse. By the mid-1700’s people started using condoms made from animal membranes, still tied with a ribbon.

The birth of the modern rubber condom came about with the help of tire manufacturer Charles Goodyear who discovered vulcanization. This process allowed liquid rubber extracted from rubber trees to be stronger, more elastic and less likely to break down over time. Buying one of the earliest rubber condoms often required men to visit their doctors to be professionally fitted.

No Glove, No Love

While condoms might be the source of late night show jokes, condoms need to be an important part of the sexual health education process. The possible consequences of not using condoms are no laughing matter. There is more work that needs to be done in North Carolina. Sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS and unintended pregnancies are major health consequences associated with unprotected sex. The rate of STI infection is on the rise and 25 percent of people diagnosed with new infections are teenagers. Although a similar percentage of teens are sexually active in the United States as in western European countries, the U.S. has much higher teen pregnancy and STI rates than Western Europe.

Through its Healthy People 2010 initiative, the federal government has set a national goal to increase the percentage of adolescents who either abstain from sex or use condoms if sexually active from 85 percent in 1999 to 95 percent in 2010. To reach this goal the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages the promotion of abstinence and condom use, as well as access to sources of quality reproductive health care.

At A Glance

NC Teen Sexual Behavior Data

  • 52 percent of high school teens surveyed have had sexual intercourse
  • 38 percent said they've had sexual intercourse in the last three months
  • Among those who have had sex, 21 percent drank alcohol or used drugs before last sexual intercourse
  • 62 percent used a condom during last sexual intercourse
  • 17 percent used birth control pills to prevent pregnancy
  • Eight percent have had sexual intercourse before the age of 13

Source: 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS): NC Healthy Schools. Coordinated by the NC Dept. of Public Instruction and the NC Dept. of Health and Human Services


Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina

Sex, Etc. - Sex, Etc. is part of the Teen-to-Teen Sexuality Education Project developed by Answer, (Rutgers University) a national organization dedicated to providing and promoting comprehensive sexuality education to young people and the adults who teach them.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Healthy People 2010

Kaiser Family Foundation

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