This week is the ‘It Starts With Me’ condom week and the LGBT Foundation has been out on the streets to tell you to practice safe sex and put male ‘condom skills’ to the test.
The foundation, formerly called the Lesbian and Gay Foundation, enabled people to practice safer sex by handing out more than 500,000 condoms last year.
Dialogue is heralded as a key solution, with most cases of HIV in England being transmitted between people who don’t even know that they carry the disease.
Sophie Beer O’Brien, health and wellbeing co-ordinator at the LGBTF, said: “During these session we’ll be talking about safer sex and the best to communicate this.
“We’ll also be offering practical demonstrations of correct condom usage and putting men’s skills to the test.”
A government health protection report released in June 2015 believed that the sharp rise in HIV and other sexually transmitted infections was largely due to condomless sex.
But another reason behind the rise is due to people simply being unaware that they are infected.
Ms O’Brian commented on this, saying: “Most HIV infections in England involve people who are unaware they are living with HIV, so condoms continue to play a vital role in HIV prevention.”
This public ignorance over STIs could explain the rising rates of infection, particularly among young people in the North West.
Statistics from the Health Protection Agency reported that 15-24 year olds from the North West are only behind Yorkshire and the Humber in chlamydia rates.
Over 3,000 15-19 year old girls out of 100,000 carry the disease.
MM took to the streets of Manchester to ask people about their use of condoms and a staggering 80% not only said that they always use condoms, but they had never had unprotected sex.
When a 24-year-old man out of the 20% who had unprotected sex was asked why he did it, his response was simply: “Condoms are for quitters.”
This highlights the problem among many young people in the UK but not all hope is lost as some of the Mancunians we spoke to are more careful.
Connor Kris, a 23-year-old civil servant from Hyde, said: “You see and hear a lot of horror stories – I don’t want to end up on tele or anything like that, so it’s best to be safe.”
Many suggest that youthful exuberance leads to people overlooking safety and not realising that you can catch infections from having sex with someone once.
Therefore campaigns like ‘It Starts With Me’ are crucial, especially with reported outbreaks of ‘super gonorrhea’ happening in Leeds, Macclesfield, Oldham and Scunthorpe.
Ms. O’Brian has practical advice to ensure safer sex: “Talk first, take protection, test regularly.
“We know that providing men [and women] with the information and confidence to make informed choices about their sexual activity, combined with consistent condom use and testing, is the key to success in bringing down the number of HIV infections and recognising late diagnosis in those unaware that they have HIV and other diseases.”
Image courtesy of Courtney Walker, with thanks.