Opinion

No glove, no love: February is National Condom Month | Amy Johnson

February is known for groundhogs and Valentines, but did you also remember that it’s National Condom Month?

While they are not a cure for sexually transmitted diseases, condoms are the most effective method (other than abstinence) for preventing the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Though they may not ever be the recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize, condoms can do much to empower both women and men to stay healthy and reduce unplanned pregnancies, which make up approximately 50 percent of pregnancies in our state, according to the Department of Health.

And while some Federal Way folks claim their religion backs them up in smearing me on their blogs, I rest assured knowing that even the Pope himself condones condoms in an effort to save lives.

Like checking your batteries in smoke detectors in October, February signals that it’s time to review your condom safety facts.

At least 200,000 people in our country have HIV and don’t know it (webmd.com).. If you haven’t been tested at least three weeks after your last unprotected sexual encounter, you need to be retested. The virus does not show up in test results immediately. Be smart. Use a condom every time.

One in four youth (and one in two sexually active youth) have a sexually transmitted infection, yet 30 percent of these young people don’t know they have one (www.cdc.gov). Many STIs have no apparent symptoms. If you are sexually active, get tested and use a condom every time, which means you also remember to protect yourself during oral and anal intercourse, if you partake. All types of intercourse can spread STIs.

By the way, adults, you’re not off the hook. Only 22 percent of unmarried men and 19 percent of unmarried women ages 15 to 44 use a condom every time they have sexual intercourse. This means all of you single, divorced, dating, sexually active adults out there in the 25- to 44-year-old category need to use condoms, too. One of the fastest growing categories in new HIV infections is women ages 39 to 60. Get with the times and stay safe.

Don’t forget to treat your condoms well so they can be there for you when you need them. Here are some places not to keep your condoms:

• Your car: Condoms subjected to extreme heat or extreme cold, like some of the frosty mornings we’ve had here in Federal Way lately, are much more likely to get brittle and break (think of an old rubber band), which renders them useless against disease and pregnancy prevention.

• Your wallet: Heat combined with pressure also breaks down the latex in condoms.

• Anywhere for too long: Condoms have an expiration date, and you should check before using one, every time. Speaking of checking, make sure there’s that little air cushion in the condom wrapper that feels kind of squishy. That assures you the wrappers and condoms have not been punctured.

Where should you keep these life-saving devices safely? Check out condom compacts (very discreet) by Just In Case Inc., condom key chains by Condom Country and a travel bag by Safe Sax.

And for those of you wanting to be socially conscious, check out the new company Love Begins with L, which distributes a condom to a developing country for every one you purchase, in an effort to empower women globally by supporting the right to safer sex.

In February and every other month, remember: love safely. If you are sexually active, use a condom every time.

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