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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Facts, myths, and the truth about condoms

Published: March 2, 2007
Section: Arts, Etc.

A few weeks ago we celebrated Valentines Day, which also happens to be National Condom Day. In belated honor of this special day, SSIS would like to share some facts and dispel some myths about condoms.

Myth: Condoms break so often that we shouldnt bother using them.

Truth: Studies show that condom breakage rates in the US are less than 2%, and those are just about always due to improper usage and are not the result of bad manufacturing. Proper usage means no double-bagging, making sure each person only touches their side of the barrier, and using lube. Most of the time, condom breakage happens because there is too much friction, and using lube is the perfect solution to the friction problem.

Myth: Condoms are only 98 or 99 percent effective, so every time I have sex, I have a 2% chance of getting pregnant.

Truth: When used correctly, condoms are 99.8% effective in preventing pregnancy. In one year, only two of every 100 couples who use condoms consistently and correctly will experience an unintended pregnancy. That means 2 pregnancies out of an estimated 8,300 acts of sexual intercourse. This means that overall;

there is a 0.02% per-condom pregnancy rate. If condoms are paired with another form of contraception, like the pill, you are as close to 100% covered as you can ever be.

Myth: Condoms dont protect against STDs like HPV (genital warts) that also pass through skin-to-skin contact.

Truth: Condoms may not give you 100% protection against STDs that cause outbreaks all over the pelvic area, but they are still worth using. A recent study shows that women who are newly sexually active and use condoms consistently have a significantly reduced chance of contracting HPV than women who do not use condoms. Also, women who are already diagnosed with a pre-cancerous cervical condition and use condoms are more likely to have healthy check ups in the future. Men who use condoms are also less likely to contract HPV. Another study showed that men who already had HPV lesions and used condoms consistently were more likely to go into regression sooner than those who didnt.

Myth: I dont need a condom when I or my partner is not having an outbreak of herpes, since it only passes through skin-to-skin contact.

Truth: Herpes does pass through skin-to-skin contact, but like HPV, it also can be passed through bodily fluids. People, who wear condoms all the time, even when they, or their partner, do not have a breakout, are less likely to pass on or contract the herpes virus.

Myth: If Im already pregnant, I dont need to use a condom when I have sex.

Truth: Studies have shown that using condoms even while pregnant can reduce your risk of intrauterine infections that can cause miscarriage. Also, using condoms will continue to protect you from contracting STDs, which can also harm a fetus, or be transferred to the baby when it born.

Myth: I have a latex allergy, so I cannot use condoms.

Truth: There are other options besides latex condoms. An older alternative is made out of lambskin, but a new and very popular alternative is the polyurethane condom. Polyurethane is a plastic that is clear and has no scent. It actually transmits heat better than latex. It is less stretchy, so its recommended that you use more lube with it. We sell two polyurethane condoms at SSIS;

the Reality condom and the Durex Avanti.

Myth: My partner has HIV, so I either cant have sex with them, or Im doomed.

Truth: In one recent study of couples in which one partner had HIV and the other did not, those that used condoms consistently for both vaginal and anal sex for two years did not pass the virus on to any of their partners. 10% of those who did not use condoms did pass on the virus. In another similar study, only 2% of those who used condoms consistently passed on the virus, as opposed to 12% that did not use condoms.

Myth: Condoms work better with Vaseline.

Truth: Oil based lubricants like Vaseline should NEVER be used with latex condoms. The oil and latex cause a chemical reaction that breaks down the latex, and destroys the effectiveness of the condom. Water-based lubricants and silicone-based lubricants are safe to use with latex condoms.

Myth: Condoms are bad for the environment.

Truth: Latex condoms are actually biodegradable, and do not harm the environment when disposed of properly. This means that they should be thrown out with the trash and not flushed down the toilet. They cause harm to the environment when they end up in bodies of water, not when they end up in landfills.

Myth: Condoms are too uncomfortable to wear.

Truth: First of all, no one is too big for a condom. If they can fit over someones head (their actual head) they can fit on a penis. Also condoms come in all shapes and sizes. Some are wider at the base, have extra room at the head. Some are snug, and some are longer and wider. Some have latex in all the right places, some are so thin you can hardly feel them. SSIS carries plenty of varieties, some come on by and we will help you find the right condom for you.