Condoms still poorly used

The International AIDS Conference was held in Toronto recently. One of the main conclusions stemming from the event is that prevention remains the best means of curbing the increase in the number of HIV infections. Condom use and a responsible approach to sex are key elements of prevention. Young people are particularly at risk, and new cases diagnosed here in Canada are mainly in that age category.

The International AIDS Conference was held in Toronto recently. One of the main conclusions stemming from the event is that prevention remains the best means of curbing the increase in the number of HIV infections. Condom use and a responsible approach to sex are key elements of prevention. Young people are particularly at risk, and new cases diagnosed here in Canada are mainly in that age category.

A recent British survey paints a picture of teens aged 16 to 18. Half of the 1,400 young people surveyed had already had sex. Of the 373 who had used a condom on the most recent occasion, 6% had put it on too late and the same proportion had removed it too early. The researchers also asked about 100 adolescents to keep a diary of their sexual activity for six months. They tallied a total of 714 sexual relations. In 322 of those occasions, no condom was used. The main reasons given for not using a condom were to enhance the level of intimacy or sensation, because another form of contraception was being used, or because they forgot in the heat of the moment. Few teens said they use condoms to prevent sexually transmitted infections. Most use them to avoid pregnancy, to avoid “making a mess”, and to make intercourse last longer. These survey results are probably similar to what we would find here among our youth and should make us aware of the situation.

When used properly, a condom can prevent most types of sexually transmitted infections. Some of these are serious and can result in sterility. Although antibiotics can treat bacterial infections such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea, there is still no cure for certain viral infections such as herpes and genital warts (condyloma). Individuals with these infections remain carriers for life; they may have occasional flare-ups and transmit the virus to others. HIV is one of these transmissible infections. While triple therapy can help control the virus and delay the onset of AIDS, it doesn’t cure it. Moreover, it does have side effects.

Teens are easily influenced by their peers. Discussing sexuality openly with their parents in early adolescence can prevent regrettable situations later. In fact, the British survey found that boys who had discussed the matter openly with their mothers in early adolescence were more likely to use condoms correctly.

A condom can be added to sexual activities without impeding pleasure. Respect between partners is the key to a healthy relationship. With a little discussion and humour, there’s always room for a condom.

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