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Saturday, September 5, 2009

WVU's Condom Caravan

College expenses in Morgantown are actually going down, well, sort of. According to the Associated Press, to support safer sex on campus, West Virginia University is rolling out the Condom Caravan. 30 varieties went on sale in September to provide students a convenient and affordable way to buy condoms. According to the university, supplying condoms doesn't mean WVU condones sex and promotes promiscuity.

The Condom Caravan is held Tuesdays at the Student Health Service in the Health Sciences Center, and at different locations every Wednesday. Hours are from 5 to 7 p.m.

Thrifty Thursday specials at the WVU Health Promotion Office at Health Sciences benefit bargain hunters when condoms are priced at 10 cents a day, a reduction from their regular price at a quarter apiece, or five for $1.00. (WSAZ Channel 3, "WVU's Condom Cavavan Features 10-Cent Thursdays," Aug 27 2009)

A brown paper bag is provided for the student who doesn't want to advertise.

Meredith Wood of WCHS Eyewitness TV reports a majority of university students, nearly 80%, are sexually active. (September 3 2009)

Most reactions to the caravan from students at WVU seem positive. "Kids are going to have sex, regardless," freshman Stephon Suggs said. "At least by having the proper tools to help ensure that they don't contract diseases, you're helping the world."

"If they're going to provide us protection for cheaper, we're more likely to use it," junior Heaven Carroll said. Rob Galloway said, "I need this because I don't want no disease." (And maybe he also needs a little work on English language double negatives.) So, what about this rather controversial Condom Caravan? The Mayo Clinic staff states, "If you use them correctly every time you have sex, condoms are effective at preventing pregnancy and the transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS. Condoms also reduce the risk of infection from other STDs, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. Condoms don't have the side effects found in some forms of female contraception, such as birth control pills or shots, or potential complications of an intrauterine device (IUD)... The effectiveness of the condom depends entirely on the condom being used correctly and the type of condom used." (Mayo Clinic Staff,, September 5 2009) As with any health care product, students should be warned about some possible problems with condoms: 1. Church & Dwight Inc. of Trojan brand condoms asserts that Trojan condoms are not recommended for use in a pool or underwater because these conditions may compromise this product and/or cause slippage of the condom. 2. While it's rare, it's still possible to get an STD or get pregnant when using a condom, especially if it breaks or comes off during sex. Condoms are an effective form of birth control. However, about 1 in 50 couples (Condoms are somewhere between 77-95% effective in preventing pregnancy.) who use condoms correctly will get pregnant in a year. (Mayo Clinic) 3. Naturally, fit is important. If it's too tight, a condom is more likely to break. If it's too loose, it may slip off. 4. Spermicidal condoms don't appear to be any more effective than other lubricated condoms at preventing pregnancy. Nonoxynol-9 may irritate or damage skin cells and also have a shorter shelf life. (Mayo Clinic) 5. The user should always check the expiration date and never use one after its expiration has passed. Also, the user should check the condom for damage -- brittleness, small tears or pinprick holes -- before using. 6. Condoms are most effective when stored in a cool dry place and when not used with oil based lubricants. (Case Western Reserve University, University Health Service, 2009) 7. It is important to know how to put a condom on properly. (Case Western Reserve University) 8. Reactions to latex include rash, hives, runny nose, swelling and constriction of the airways and loss of blood pressure. In this case, a condom made from polyurethane or lambskin may be an option. (Mayo Clinic) Of course, some people object to distributing any means of birth control. At a state university, the issues of whose responsibility it is to provide sex education and who should deal with all the ripples it creates can be questioned. One thing is certain: much more than studying is going on behind those dorm room doors. But, this Condom Caravan employs a rather insensitive approach to dealing with problems. Just a couple of quotes to finish the post: "Simply put, condoms fail. And condoms fail at a rate unacceptable for me as a physician to endorse them as a strategy to be promoted as a meaningful AIDS protection." -- Dr. Robert Renfield, chief of retro-viral research, Walter Reed Army Institute ("Condom 'Cure' Questioned by top AIDS researcher," Russell Shaw, Our Sunday Visitor, 1/23/94.) "Telling somebody to put a mere balloon between their health and a deadly disease is irresponsible. It's like telling someone it's okay to drink and drive as long as they wear a seat belt."

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