Condom Fatigue in Western Europe?


According to a new survey, one in five Irish men fail to use condoms. The survey, which was conducted by the Irish Health Service Executive South, also found that Irish men have a low awareness of sexual health services.

And more research from the family planning association in the UK for Sexual Health Week (August 6-12) showed that only 39% of people say talking about condoms with a new sexual partner is an easy conversation to have. Of those who said they did not find it easy, 70% of people said they found the conversation embarrassing and 42% said it's a turn off. Thirty-six percent said it is such a tough conversation it makes them less likely to use a condom.

How about the rest of Western Europe? All safe and practicing safer sex? Not according to the Durex Global Sex Survey which indicates that seven of the top 10 countries where unprotected sex is most likely to occur are in Western Europe – Norway, Greece, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Ireland and Iceland.

In Denmark, Sex & Samfund are launching a "Remember The Condom" campaign in September in collaboration with the Danish Ministry Of Health. "The two real problems are that young people are more worried about pregnancy than STIs, and public investment in good STI prevention programs has declined," says Sex & Samfund Executive Director Bjarne Christesen. "We are hoping our campaign will do what it is called, and remind people they need to protect themselves."

Dortje Braeken, Senior Adviser For Adolescents And Youth at the IPPF, worries that in countries such as Sweden and Finland where there is a very open attitude to sexuality, promotion of condom use is still with messages just about avoiding disease and pregnancy. "We definitely have condom fatigue in Europe," she says. "And that is partly thanks to the way condoms are promoted. Look at the leaflets in condom packets. They are too dull and clinical. They need to create some links between condoms and sex, not just condoms and disease or pregnancy."

Whether it is a reminder or a re-think that is needed, the facts from Durex do suggest that there is more to promoting safer sexual health than the liberal attitudes to sex and sexuality found in countries such as Sweden and Denmark and Finland. These attitudes need to be translated into promotional messages that actually mean something to individuals who are having sex.

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