All condoms are equally effective if used correctly. Whether it’s Lifestyle, Trojan, Kimono Microthin or Durex, all the contraceptives seen in drugstores, on campus and at Planned Parrenthood are FDA-approved and equally likely to protect against STI’s and HIV. But just because all condom brands have the same effectivity rate does not mean that they are all equally preferred. Many people are influenced by majorly marketed brands such as Trojan or Durex, and therefore have a preconceived notion that these brands provide the best protection.
I’ve been distributing condoms since I was 16, handing out every variety of contraception on the market. Each and every time the same thing happens — if it’s not Trojan or Durex, most students won’t take it. As a freshman, I was a sexual health peer educator for the group PULSE in East Quad Residence Hall. Every weekend, I would put the University Health Service provided LifeStyles on my door for students to take. That same year, I was a member of the Great American Condom Campaign, a program run by Advocates for Youth that sends 500 Trojan condoms to a student to distribute on campus. In two months of condom distribution, I had zero Trojan condoms left, and almost my entire stack of Lifestyles untouched. According to a BMC Public Health study, patrons are much more likely to make use of free condoms when there are a variety of brands and styles available. “The provision of assorted brand-name condoms, over a single brand name, can serve to increase condom acquisition,” the study contends.
As stated before, all condoms are equally effective. Educating students about the importance of contraception and the effectivity is crucial, but even with the incredible education efforts and outreach by UHS groups such as PULSE and Sexperteam, reducing the stigma around contraception takes time. In order to best address student health needs we must provide contraception students will use.
No one is denying the merit of the amazing work that groups such as PULSE and Sexperteam do on campus. Both groups are dedicated to educating our campus community about safe sexual health practices and distributing UHS-provided contraception to students in residential halls as well as off campus. What PULSE students do is integral to providing information on contraception to students, but tasking 30 students with changing campus culture is a timely process.
What we need is a culture shift, which takes time. We need to reduce the stigma around contraceptive use and ensure that all students have access to information on safe sexual practices as well as a variety of contraceptive options. A culture change doesn’t happen over night, however, STI and HIV infections do. As sexual educators, we know that regardless of what contraceptive you may use, or what contraceptive UHS provides, they are all equally effective at preventing STI’s and HIV infection as well as unintended pregnancy, as long as they’re used correctly. Because of marketing and cultural norms, not every student feels comfortable using lesser-known contraceptives, like the ones that UHS provides (e.g. Kimono Microthin and LifeStyles). While we advocate for better education around the effectivity of these contraceptives, we recognize that cultural change is a long process, and with over half of all new STI infections are occurring in young people, we must be proactive now to deliver the contraceptives that students want, to ensure that all young people are protected themselves.
We fully support a variety of options for students, seeing as every individual has personal preferences and needs. We support the continued availability of female condoms, dental dams and non-latex condoms at UHS, but we believe that to best serve the majority of students’ sexual health needs, a student requested brand like Trojan or Durex is the best short-term solution.
We are calling on UHS to provide Trojan condoms as one of the main contraceptives for students. Please sign our petition to show UHS that sexual health is important to our campus community. If the Spartans already use Trojans, why can’t we?
Carly Manes is a Public Policy junior.