Among recent advances in HIV treatment, one of the most noteworthy has been the reduction of transmission risk in patients receiving successful anti-retroviral treatments. Unfortunately, many media outlets have misinterpreted this and insinuated in their reports that condom use can now be made obsolete.
However, it is important to note that HAART (Highly Active Anti-retroviral Therapy) medications are expensive and not available to everyone. In addition, desired effects are heavily reliant on medication adherence which can prove to be a barrier for some. Not to mention, this doesn’t even cover those that are unaware of their HIV status. Clearly, the risk is still great and condom use is as relevant as ever. Condom use protects not only against HIV/AIDS, but other sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) and unwanted pregnancy. When used correctly and consistently, condoms are highly effective in preventing transmission of bodily fluids.
If you are sexually active, latex condoms provide the best protection. Polyurethane or polyisoprene condoms may also be used and are good options for people with latex allergies. Natural membrane (such as lambskin) condoms are porous, meaning that fluids can seep through them, and therefore do not offer the same level of protection against HIV and other STIs.
Male latex condoms, placed over the penis, offer greater protection from HIV than female condoms. However, using a female condom is better than not using any form of protection at all. Condoms should be used consistently—EVERY time you have sex. Be sure not to tear the condom when opening the wrapper. Open the wrapper carefully with your hands—never use your teeth. Always use a NEW condom with every act of vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
Getting your partner to accept condom use is not always easy and LIAAC offers a program called Video Opportunities for Innovative Condom Education and Safe Sex, or VOICES (VOCES en Español.) It is a 45-minute, video-based HIV/STD prevention intervention designed to promote condom use and strengthen condom negotiation skills. As with many of our other education programs, LIAAC distributes condoms and information on how best to use them. The objectives of VOICES/VOCES are to increase participants’ motivation and intentions to use condoms consistently, improve participants’ negotiation skills regarding condom use and safer sex practices with partners, increase participants’ knowledge about STI/HIV transmission, and improve clients’ assessment of their risk for HIV and STIs and how they can ultimately reduce that risk.
LIAAC also spreads the word about safer sex practices through our social media venues, on our Facebook page, through Pinterest postings and tweets on Twitter. Using humor and pictures of cats to get people’s attention, we promote the safer sex message in our public service memes called “Condom Cats.” It’s more likely that a safer sex message attached to a cute picture with a funny joke or clever saying will be passed around on social media sites increasing the odds that it will be seen by more people.
So join us in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Treat every day like it’s Condom Awareness Day and spread the word about safer sex practices. For more information visit our website, or call LIAAC at 1-877-865-4222.