June 11, 2004
America’s love affair with the condom…it’s like a bad love affair where the lover cheats on us time and again. After each betrayal, we get a tearful apology and renewed promises…only to take up with the same bad lover and walk into the same tired lies again.
Condoms are nothing new. They have been traced back to 1350 BC when ancient Egyptian tribesmen used sheaths to protect themselves against infection, injury and insect bits. Cave paintings dated 100-200 AD in southern France provide the earliest evidence of European condom use.
Almost thirty years after cultivation of the rubber tree began in the 1870s, the Durex trademark was first registered. By 1993, annual production of natural latex condoms reached a total of 8.5 billion units.
Like all consumer products, condoms are tested, and reports on their reliability have been carried in the trusted Consumer Reports. It’s enough to make the average person accept with calm assurance that if we sell enough condoms, we can make America safe. So how safe are we…really?
In 1982, a major crisis ushered in the modern “age of the condom.” Previously used to prevent pregnancies, condoms became the only available weapon against the dark unknown threat of the HIV virus.
From the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, the promises of condoms were measured against our fears of the unknown…HIV. No one was certain exactly how it spread: kissing, sharing drinking cups, public swimming pools, and gym locker rooms?
One thing was certain. HIV virus was spread through sexual contact, and we grabbed the nearest band-aid…the condom. It was better than nothing. The real question today after thirty years of condom use is, “How much better than nothing?”
Modern risk management analysts make a living out of telling us how many times on the average we can safely ski, climb rocks, and fly in airplanes before we die.
What if you knew you had a 20% chance of dying every time you got into your family car? Well, when talking about pregnancy and teenagers, condoms have a greater than 20% FAILURE rate in preventing pregnancy.
What if you knew you had an unlimited chance of getting infected with the disease that leads to death by cervical cancer? Well, when talking about condoms, there is no clinical proof that condoms prevent HPV infection if you have sex with a person infected with the humanpapilloma virus (HPV). This virus causes over 97% of cervical cancer which kills more women each year than AIDS.
What if you knew that, no matter how many condoms you’ve used during your life, genital herpes and HPV virus live on the human body outside areas covered by the condom? Is it any wonder that one in five people over the age of 12 today are infected with genital herpes and that one million Americans acquire genital herpes infection each year?
Finally, consider those who promise parents that children can be taught to use condoms “consistently and correctly.” Really?
Major international HIV studies have proven that even when married couples knew they might pass the HIV virus to their uninfected spouse, these couples failed to use condoms consistently and correctly every time they had sex. These adults actually chose to expose their spouse to the deadly AIDS disease. Can we really believe our children will do better than this?
Is this the stuff love is made of? Twenty percent risk of pregnancy? Unlimited risk of HPV infection leading to cervical cancer? A life with an incurable genital herpes infection? If the airlines operated with risks like these, who would ever get on a plane?
The truth is, condoms are like bad lovers…a few good times followed by pain and suffering. Condoms have been around for thousands of years, and for thousands of years people still knew the best place for sex was inside a loving, monogamous and faithful marriage. It’s an old message, and it’s still a true message.
There’s a day of reckoning for every bad love affair, a day when we declare the end to lies and deceit. When will we be ready to declare the truth about condoms? How about today?
See Archives for past editorials.
April 30, 2004: Condoms: A Failure to Protect