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Wrap it up

National Condom Awareness week comes to the U of M

By Erica Horton
On February 15, 2011

  • M. Dwayne Jones (right) uses the idea of the reborn phoenix in his new book, dedicated to helping children with lifelong illnesses, like his son Jordan (left), who suffers from diabetes. Aaron Turner

While many University of Memphis students cuddled with their sweeties on Valentine's Day Monday, Student Health Services kicked off National Condom Awareness Week on campus, encouraging lovers to safely wrap up their holiday.

Jacqueline De Fouw, health educator at The U of M, said to recognize the week several student groups will have displays and information tables set up in the University Center.

She said the purpose of the week, which was started in 1978 by students at the University of California, Berkeley, is to promote the education and awareness of safe sex.

"We have some students who are sexually active with multiple partners and it is important for every student to recognize the importance of keeping their body (Sexually Transmitted Infection) free," she said. "The latex condom is a barrier which helps prevent sharing STI viruses like HIV, herpes, human papillomavirus, bacteria, funguses and other infective substances when used properly. Latex condoms are also a barrier for sperm, so they can prevent pregnancy."

De Fouw said each year, several thousand condoms are given away during programs and outreach on campus and that free condoms are available for pick up in the Student Health Services bathroom.

"The best way to protect yourself is to practice postponing sex," she said. "If you do choose to have a sexual relationship, make sure you and your partner are ready and it is the right time, right place, right person and fits with your values. The only person who will protect you is you."

Joan Carr, director of community affairs for the Greater Memphis Region of Planned Parenthood, said this week is important for the city, which has a low condom IQ.

"There is a lack of awareness here in the Memphis area of the effectiveness and proper use of condoms," she said.

Carr said it is important for sexually active young people in the Memphis area to use condoms every time they have sex because of the high incidence of sexually transmitted infections in the area.

"The Memphis metro area has some of the highest rates in the country of Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis," she said. "The rate of HIV infection in our area is also well above the national average. While abstinence is the only way to completely protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases, consistent and correct use of condoms can significantly reduce the risk."

According to the 2010 U.S. Medical Eligibility Criteria for Contraceptive Use by the Center for Disease Control, 85 percent of couples who don't use any form of birth control over the course of a year will experience pregnancy.

The report also said when couples correctly use a male condom every time they have sex over the course of a year, only 2 percent of women become pregnant.

Payshence Green, freshman education major, said she became sexually active two years ago and uses protection — but not every time.

"It's not comfortable and sometimes when I use (condoms) they slip," she said. "But I am on birth control and I only don't use condoms with one person who I've known for five years."

She said she doesn't worry about getting pregnant because she takes her birth control "faithfully," but if she did get pregnant or contract an STI, there would be no one to blame but herself.

"It's my decision to have unprotected sex," she said. "If I caught anything, I would take responsibility, learn from it and try not to do it again."

Sophomore engineering major Kallen Wilson said she always has safe sex.

Wilson, a volunteer at the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center, said she learned about safe sex at a "Sexperts" class.

"You learn about different STDs, different kinds of condoms, anything to do with safe sex," she said.

Wilson said there is a common misconception that lesbians, like herself, can't have safe sex.

"I signed up for the class because abstinence isn't always the answer and it can be fun to have safe sex," she said. "For girls (having intercourse with other girls), there are finger cots, dental dams and condoms for when you use strap-ons."

Carr said in 2009, 6,390 women aged 15-24 gave birth in Shelby County, which also accounts for about 20 percent of all teen births, ages 10-19 in the state of Tennessee.

"We believe the majority of those pregnancies are not planned," she said. "Proper and consistent use of condoms could prevent many of those pregnancies. However we also recommend that women who don't want to get pregnant back up the use of condoms with another birth control method, such as the birth control pill, because condoms do sometimes fail or slip off."

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