Concordia University Health Services handed out some sensual swag at its third annual Condom Giveaway. The event, at which students could select from 20 varieties of condoms, highlighted the financial barriers some students face when considering safe sexual health practices.
“The reality is that cost is a barrier,” said Gaby Szabo, health promotion specialist at Health Services. “There is a difference in condom use when people get them for free versus when they have to pay for them. We sell them at a third of the cost that you get them at drugstores. We don’t make a profit.” Health Services offers other sexual health measures, like oral dams and lube, at cost.
A 2009 Statistics Canada study reported that among single Canadians between the ages of 20 and 34, 60 per cent of men and only half of women reported using a condom the last time they had sex. But in a study conducted in New York, N.Y. earlier this year, 73 per cent of those who accepted free condoms reported using them.
The low rate of reported condom use and the subsequent frequency of sexually transmitted infections are of rising concern in Canada 8212; particularly in Quebec.
This province, Szabo said, accounts for the lowest condom use amongst 20 to 34 year olds in Canada. She attributed this statistic partly to common myths and misconceptions, citing the popular belief that condoms break on their own. Rather, it is incorrect use of the protective measure that causes breakage, Szabo said…
…Negative attitudes surrounding condoms are another barrier, the health-care worker said. “There’s an assumption that only sailors and sex trade workers use them,” she said.
Dr. Viviane Namaste is the Concordia University research chair in HIV/AIDS and sexual health at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute. She said she sees a need for change in the ways sex and sexuality are approached and discussed.
“How do we create a climate on campus where people feel comfortable talking about sexuality and all its complexities? About pleasure, and a great part of life, and the possibility of disease transmission?”
Namaste expressed concern over health officials’ complacency towards STI education for women. “Chlamydia can hang out in the throat without people knowing,” she said. “Health care practitioners tell women it’s not a problem, even though we know everyone’s at risk of STIs.”
Chlamydia and herpes infections are on the rise in Quebec. Human papillomavirus8212;the virus responsible for genital warts and cervical cancer8212;is the most common STI in Canada. According to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, 75 per cent of sexually active Canadians will have at least one HPV infection in their lifetime, with a majority of cases occurring in high school and university-aged populations.
By the numbers
– Just over half of Canadians reported using condoms the last time they had sex
– 59,372 Canadians have reported a positive HIV test result between 1997 and 2007
– 27 per cent of Canadians living with HIV don’t know their HIV status