ARE CONDOMS STILL RELEVANT?


I read a story recently about some teenagers in England who had come up with the concept of a condom that changes colour if a sexually transmitted infection is detected. Their idea was that you could have a different colour for each infection, eg purple for herpes and green for gonorrhoea.

It’s unlikely to ever hit the shelves, as it would be difficult, if not impossible, to incorporate the complex detection methods laboratories use into a thin layer of latex.  And I guess you’d need the lights on in order to see the colour change!

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Anyway the story reminded me that it’s worth discussing again the benefits of regular condom use.

Condoms have been around a long time.  We’re not sure about ancient times, but certainly by the middle ages sheaths made of linen or animal intestines were known to protect people against syphilis.

In 1839 Charles Goodyear created rubber condoms. By WW2 they were standard issue for the military.  Until the advent of the pill in the 1960’s they were the primary means of birth control in most western countries.

With the advent of HIV in the 1980’s condoms became the most important tool in the gay man’s quest to remain negative. But with other preventative measures now available, is the condom still relevant today? In short, the answer is yes!

In recent times, all of the talk has been about Treatment as Prevention and PrEP, but it’s important not to forget the role of the humble latex condom in protecting yourself against HIV and sexually transmitted infections.

The prevalence of syphilis, Hepatitis C, genital warts, herpes, gonorrhoea and chlamydia continues to be an issue for gay men in Australia. Regular condom use considerably reduces the risk of picking up these infections. Combined with regular testing it’s still your best protection against infection.

Dr Fiona Bisshop is an experienced GP who specialises in LGBTI sexual health.