Do Condom Distribution Programs Actually Discourage Safe Sex?

lots of colorful condoms  ...
lots of colorful condoms ...

Let's shift the responsibility for safe sex back to the individual. The present expectation that condoms and lube will be provided can give gay men an excuse not to practice safe sex. People can't count on those condoms being there or knowing where they are at the moment of need. This is from an article stating why condom distribution is important, but condoms and lube are not in all venues, and the value of distribution to bars diminished when Internet websites became an option to connect for sex.

In addition, consider these statistics: Five percent of men worldwide use condoms. D.C. acknowledges distributing 3.5 million condoms to a population of 650,000. At the same time, D.C. is on par with African countries receiving PEPFAR funds in terms of HIV infection rates (and D.C. is only 70 square miles)!

Condom use and safe sex are relatively new concepts in terms of gay lifestyle. Until the recent explosion of bareback film production, the only porn of that nature was pre-AIDS adult film. It was only once we learned that HIV was transmitted through unprotected sex that condom programs came into being. Bareback porn disappeared as studios realized that their adult models were being infected on the sets. Gay organizations and the government actively intervened to provide not only condoms but education on their use.

The availability and affordability of condoms is no longer an issue. Gay men have been saturated with the "safe sex" message. Despite all efforts, this message is not resonating!

A recent survey among gay men in D.C. revealed that 40 percent of gay men did not use condoms with their last sex partner. Another survey asked the volunteers distributing condom packets what condoms they preferred. In this limited sample, the condoms preferred were not those they were distributing. "We like certain brands because of their variety and the near 'bareback' experience," they said.

Furthermore, my opinion is that for the worst possible "safe sex" experience, use the condoms and lube packaged and distributed by gay centers and public health agencies. These condoms actually confirm the belief that condoms are uncomfortable, lessen sensitivity and prevent an intimate sexual experience.

I suggest an alternative: Shift the responsibility for safe sex to the individual. Anyone who cannot afford to purchase quality condoms and lubricant cannot deal with the consequences of STIs and possible HIV.

Gay health organizations need to redirect their efforts from stuffing condom packets into teaching responsibility, safety and fun.

So let's make safe sex fun!

My suggestion: Why not visit specialty condom shops, ask the knowledgeable staff (they probably have tried them all), and get a variety of high-quality latex and latex-free condoms? Purchase some quality silicone-based lube.

There are ways to make condom use an integral part of hot sex. Have your partner put them on you if you are topping, or if you are the bottom, aggressively attack your partner's member and clothe him before he knows what is happening.

Condoms are not the end solution. Presently, they are the only cost-effective option. And a number of condoms out there provide a sensual, near-bareback experience.

Try them out with a group of friends. Rate them yourselves. This can be fun and totally safe.

It is very easy to go with the flow and have unprotected sex. I personally have never liked condoms and am paying a huge price for that choice.

Be a contrarian. Experiment. Find a way to have playful sex safely.

Eventually, we can all dispense with condoms. We can wipe out the reservoirs of HIV in the population. Microbicides will be out there -- and condoms and the entire mantra of "reckless behavior" will disappear.

Gay health centers: Redirect your energy! Get off your pedestal that your condom distribution programs equate to HIV education and prevention. They do not! I could list a dozen workshops and educational programs that are needed that you do not provide, citing a lack of manpower.

My message to gay men is to enjoy hot sex safely.

The incremental cost of quality condoms is nothing compared to a lifetime of medical costs associated with HIV. Once you realize the importance of staying negative, you are already committed to a lifetime of expenses and challenges of living with HIV that you cannot even imagine.

Not only do you not want to go there, there is no need.