The Condom's History and Effectiveness

February 8, 2011

Condoms have a long history in the annals of birth control. Even today, while Japan has the highest rate of condom use in the world, cornering a whopping 80% of the birth control market, most developed countries show condom use as the primary source of birth control to be about 28%. In 2005, there were an estimated 10.4 billion condoms were used. Approximately 40 percent of those were used strictly for birth control purposes, while nearly sixty percent were used for HIV or STD prevention. It is estimated that nearly eighteen billion condoms will be used in 2015 in low and middle-income countries.

Condom History

The first condom is believed to have been used as far back as 1000 BC by the Egyptians who used a crude linen sheath for protection. Cave paintings from 100-200 AD show scenes which appear to portray the use of condoms, but it was not until the 1500's, when a syphilis epidemic spread across Europe, that the condom became more widespread. In the 1700's condoms were made by animal intestines, but were quite expensive. In the 1800's, condom manufacturing saw a major revolution when Goodyear discovered rubber. At this point rubber condoms could be quickly and cheaply mass produced, however it soon became illegal to market condoms due to the 1873 Comstock Law, slowing the enthusiasm considerably for this form of birth control. Additionally, the postal service was allowed to confiscate condoms sent through the U.S. Mail. 1919 saw the advent of latex condoms, which were both thinner, and lacked the offensive rubber odor of their predecessor. The sales of condoms literally skyrocketed from the 1920's through the early 1960's, until the advent of the pill caused sales to taper off.

Facts Regarding Condoms

Surprisingly, condoms are extremely strong for their small size and thickness, and are actually able to carry an entire liter of water. The armed forces currently distribute non-lubricated condoms to their troops to use as emergency water canteens-or safe sex! The latex condom is 86% effective in keeping a woman from getting pregnant, while the diaphragm only has an 80% effective rate. Condoms are approximately 70% effective in preventing HPV, and 85% effective in stopping the spread of AIDS from one person to another. Perhaps the main issue in condom use is using them properly, in the way they were meant to be used. Never open the condom wrapper with your teeth, as you risk tearing the condom. Make sure you firmly hold onto the condom edges when withdrawing to keep the condom from slipping off. While condoms can break or leak, it is estimated that only two in 100 latex condoms do so. If you are thinking of using a condom which looks old, worn, dry or brittle-don't. Heat can weaken latex condoms, so store out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources. Condoms come with a stamped expiration date, and should not be used after the date.

Condoms Today

Condoms today come in a wide array of styles, textures, colors and flavors. Latex rubber is the most widely-sold condom today however it is possible to purchase polyurethane condoms, or even those made from animal skins. Because condoms can be purchased without a prescription they remain a convenient form for birth control or as a barrier to sexually transmitted diseases.

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