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Condom Use Among Adults

How safe are condoms?

The condom has long been touted as a way of preventing unwanted pregnancies and STDs. However, many who have misunderstood or denied the public health benefits of condom use have attacked it. Many people even think of condoms as a kind of “magic ticket” to preventing the spread of STDs, and believe that talking about them encourages sexual intercourse.

History of its use

The first known occurrence of the word condom is in 1706. However, for almost three hundred years discussion of condoms — and even the very of the word — were suppressed. The 1890 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary has no entry for the word, and until Surgeon General C. Everett Koop made a speech on the use of condoms for AIDS prevention in November 1986, they were not advertised in the mass media. Since then, condoms have been included in sex education programs, and public schools even distribute them free (e.g. http://chicagoist.com/2014/03/20/cps_to_distribute_free_condoms_at_2.php).

Pregnancy among adults using condoms

Unwanted pregnancy can indeed strike even when condoms are used. Sometimes, to be sure, it is the result of dumb mistakes, such as using oil-based lubricants that can break the condom, tearing it with the teeth when removing it from its package or failing to leave a tip to collect the sperm. When used perfectly, the failure rate of condoms is only five percent — but the chance is still there. As it is, 21 percent of all women become pregnant each year when using condoms.

STDs among adults using condoms

As with pregnancy, most of the incidents of sexually transmitted diseases or STD’s have resulted from improper or inconsistent use and not from material breakage. Many of these people then falsely report breakage or something faulty in the condom in order to shift the blame away from them.

Using condoms in combination

Condoms, when used alone, may be relatively ineffective. However, additional measures can increase their effectiveness. Birth control pills, for instance, can decrease the chances of pregnancy with condoms. So can IUDs and spermicides. As for the idea that talk of condoms encourages sexual activity, a 2003 study revealed such to be the case predominantly among those who were already sexually active.

Our conclusion is first that adults using condoms, unless they fail to observe proper safety rules, are significantly less likely to get pregnant or contract STDs than their condom-free counterparts, and second, that additional contraceptive methods can increase condom effectiveness.

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