Today is National Condom Day
Epidemiologists have made the estimate that, in the U.S. alone each year, a staggering 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections arise. How can this number be accurate? After all, if such a large number of people are newly infected each year, wouldn’t this quickly lead to treatment shortages, and other potential health care crises?
The fact is, the overwhelming majority of people who are infected by sexual transmission are completely unaware that they have been infected. As a direct result, these newly infected persons have no reason to believe that they are in danger of infecting others. When one puts these two facts together, then multiplies them by the sexually active population of the United States, 19 million new infections suddenly seems to be much more of a reality.
How can so many infected people not know that they are infected? The truth is, most sexually transmitted infections are very slow-growing. Because the infecting organism multiples so gradually, few if any symptoms are experienced after an infection is transmitted. Long-term consequences of infection, however, can be severe, and are often difficult to predict.
For these reasons, the most important measure that we can take as a society is to prevent sexual infections from being transmitted in the first place. For adults who choose not to be sexually active, prevention of transmission is achieved by completely abstaining from sex. For the rest of American adults, a high degree of protection from sexually transmitted infections can be achieved through the proper and consistent use of latex (rubber) or polyurethane (plastic) condoms during sexual intercourse.
For several years now, latex and polyurethane condoms have been manufactured for both males and females. Because male latex condoms have been in widespread use for well over 100 years, these condoms have been studied the most when it comes to the prevention of sexually transmitted infections. More recent studies, comparing the male latex condoms to female or polyurethane condoms have shown that these choices may offer a similar degree of protection from infection, if used properly and consistently. (For more information regarding the proper use of condoms, please click here; for questions and answers regarding condom use, please click here.)
This week is the right time to begin adopting safer sexual practices. It is no mistake that Valentine’s Day has been selected by the American Social Health Association to be known as National Condom Day. In fact, this entire week, from February 11 until February 17 has been dubbed National Condom Week. The idea is to encourage the prevention of sexually transmitted infections, and to raise awareness regarding the two main options, as we have discussed above: sexual abstinence, and the proper and consistent use of latex or polyurethane condoms.
Note: The ASHA logo and the image of the National Condom Week Poster were used courtesy of the American Social Health Association.