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Content Writer at TAFE NSW

The number one issue many people have with condoms is that the latex deadens sensation – like having sex through a shower curtain

Okay, let’s see if we can have a sensible, adult discussion about condoms while keeping a straight face and without cracking any silly jokes.

First up, National Condom Day is an actual thing and it falls on Valentine’s Day. If you’re wondering why you haven’t really heard of it before, it’s probably because the media is more comfortable flogging roses and chocolates than it is flogging contraceptives.

And while the slogan, “Let’s share affection, not infection” may not be overly romantic, it’s certainly practical and sensible.

National Condom Day began as an initiative by a US AIDS support group back in the late 1980s when the phrase “safe sex” was still fairly new. Its objective was to educate people, particularly young people, about the risks of sexually transmissible infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancies.

Now, almost 30 years on, the message is still just as important. Some STIs such as Chlamydia and HIV are still far too prevalent for complacency. Many people over the age of 35 would still remember Australia’s famous Grim Reaper TV commercial from 1987 which was controversial at the time for its sheer brutality. The campaign captured global attention, marking Australia as a worldwide leader in spreading the message of safe sex, and is still considered one of the most effective HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns ever.

But in the absence of similarly effective campaigning today, there’s a growing undercurrent of complacency and ignorance among some younger age groups regarding STIs. For many people, condoms just aren’t cool. The number one issue many people have with condoms is that the latex deadens sensation – like having sex through a shower curtain. To be fair, they have a point.

But innovative researchers at the University of Wollongong are already onto this. Funded with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the researchers are working to replace latex with a new material that’s “more skinlike”. Made of tough hydrogel, the condoms-in-progress will be designed to look, act and feel like real human skin. This kind of hydrogel is already found in everyday things like contact lenses and even food additives. The research team hopes this new generation type of condom will “enhance or preserve pleasure for uptake in condom use” and puts it at the very foreskin front of condom technology.

In the meantime, popular slogans like “if it’s not on, it’s not on” still need to prevail.

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