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By Carib News Now Special London correspondent.

With the rising number of people acquiring HIV and sexually transmitted infections there appears to be an urgency more than before to educate and encourage all those who are sexually active to practice safer sex by using condoms.

 The condom, also called ‘frenchi or French letter’ or  ‘rubber’ when used correctly protects not only against unwanted pregnancies but also from the acquisition of sexually transmitted infections.

Although the use of condoms has been encouraged time and time again, there still appears to be some reluctance. The question remains then “why is there such reluctance and inconsistent use?”

As consenting adults we should all have the right to decide whether or not we wish to use condoms in our sexual relationships. However, in some situations this right may be taken away due to power struggles in relationships, for example.

Some women may not feel they have the necessary skills to negotiate the use of condoms in relationships and may in some cases face the possibility of abuse from their partners. They may be aware their partner is unfaithful, but because of fear may feel unable to say anything. 

There may also be the issue of  ‘emotional blackmail’ if one cares to use this term. “If you love me and trust me you won’t want me to use condoms…” The threat of termination of a relationship could also result in condoms not being used if one partner insists that condoms be used.

Some readers may say that if they were in either of these positions that they would tell the other person where to go. We must however, look at the wider picture. For example, a woman may be financially dependant on her male partner. Although she is aware of his infidelity, her main concern may be the welfare of her children and putting food on the table. In this situation negotiating safer sex practices may not be her priority and this is understandable.

Others may argue that it is because of the welfare of her children that she should insist in condom use in case she is infected with HIV.

Another reason where there may be inconsistent or non-use of condoms in relationships could be the ‘loss or lack of sensation’, which men have often stated. Manufacturers of condoms have tried to make condoms available which are said to give a more natural feeling and more sensitivity. It is therefore worth having a look in your local chemist to see if these are available.

Availability and cost may also be responsible for the non or inconsistent use of condoms in relationships. Are condoms freely available for those who are financially unable to purchase them or are condoms too expensive? If condoms are too expensive then there will certainly be inconsistent use and this again may not be a financial priority for some people.

One should also look at the availability of condoms and whether there is free access. Condoms should be made available free of cost or at an affordable price. 

In other cases although there may be access to free condoms some people may feel embarrassed to obtain them. Some women for example, may feel some embarrassment if they are seen obtaining condoms for fear of what people may think and the attitudes exhibited by others.

For those young people who are sexually active there may be the fear of being seen by an adult who may knows their parents and run the risk of parents being informed or being seen by their own peers who may in some instances start the spread of rumours.

Young persons’ family planning clinics, specialist clinics and one- stop shops where advice and education can be sought by young people seems to be the way forward in helping to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections including HIV. Such information for example could include the use of the ‘DOUBLE DUTCH’ method of contraception where the condom is used in addition to the oral contraceptive pill.

Finally one can also look at the problems of condoms splitting, coming off during sex, allergic reactions and wrong size condoms. One of the complaints expressed by some men is that the condoms split during sex. One reason for this could be that the air was not expelled from the tip of the condom before putting the condom on.

Also ensuring that the right size condom is used is also important and not just assuming ‘one size fits all’.  Some individuals may be allergic to latex and will need therefore to check that there are non-latex condoms available. Again there may be cost implications, as these types may be a bit more costly.

There may be other reasons not mentioned in this article why there is the non and inconsistent use of condoms in relationships. As individuals we need to decide whether to condomise or not to condomise in our relationships. However we must remember and bear in mind that there are some people who may not have a choice.

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