About AIDS

National Condom Week is here!

Valentine's Day, the most romantic day of the year, heralds the beginning of National Condom Week, Feb. 14-21. How fitting! This is an opportune time to reflect on our sexual responsibilities to our partners. What could be more important therein than protecting the health and well-being of the person we care about? Whether it's Mr./Ms. Right Longterm or Mr./Ms. Right Now, we owe it to them – and to ourselves – to be safe. There's potentially too big a price to pay otherwise.

Condoms can be a big – and erotic – part of that safe-decision process for those who choose to be sexually active. The catch to condom effectiveness is correct plus consistent. "Correct" means a latex condom (no lambskin, please!) used with plenty of water-based lube. "Consistent" means every single time you have sex with anyone other than a faithful, non-needle-sharing, HIV-negative partner. Condom users are pretty good about using them correctly; it's actually the consistent part that is the more difficult.

Remember that even if you have latex allergies, as 10% of the population does, you can still model the love glove. Choose the Avanti brand; it's polyurethane, not latex. Avanti usually gets very high marks from users, because it's strong but superthin, so it feels like you have little or nothing on, and it conducts heat and touch ideally.

And for women whose partners avoid the party wrappers, the Reality female condom lets her be in control. The Reality is inserted vaginally and forms a sort of liner pouch to receive her partner. It also is polyurethane and so is just as sensitive as the Avanti – but controlled by the female partner.

The two most common excuses from men who don't want to package the meat are that it interferes with sensation and that they don't fit. Both objections may be resolved by choosing the right product. A plain ol' rubber, especially one of the cheap ones, may dull the friction action a tad; it's hard to say just how much. The key to maximizing sensation is finding a condom that fits right. Condoms vary wildly in size and shape: one size does not fit all. Manufacturers also are increasingly offering varied products like microscopic bumps on the inside or a "baggy" head section to increase friction where it counts.

One suggestion for you men: Try a bunch of different products. You can even order a "sampler" with lots of varied offerings from online retailers like www.condom.com or www.ripnroll.com. Find a product that you like. Then use it with that special someone soon!

-- Sandy Bartlett

Community Education Coordinator, AIDS Services of Austin

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