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Syphilis is on the Rise!

Syphilis is one of the sexually transmitted infections (STIs) caused by bacteria. If left untreated, it can cause serious health problems; however, treatment is available with antibiotics. Yet cases of syphilis are on the rise in USA.


From 2018 to 2022, reported cases rose 80% in the U.S. In 2022, cases of congenital syphilis among newborns were 10 times higher than in 2012, at 3,700 cases. The increase in case numbers is alarming.  What, then, needs to be done to reverse the rising rates of syphilis?


What is Syphilis?


Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum.  It is spread by unprotected vaginal, anal, and oral sex.  It is highly contagious when sores or the rash are present and can cause permanent damage without treatment.  It can also present asymptomatically and, therefore, be spread unknowingly, even through the sharing of sex toys.  This is why testing for syphilis and any STI is so imperative for prevention and treatment. 


Testing for Syphilis


Testing for syphilis is either a simple blood test or swab of a sore or chancre.  It is both easy to test and then to treat with antibiotics.  It is very important that you tell your sexual partners if you test positive so that they may get tested as well. In 2018 there were over 113,000 cases of syphilis in the US. And as of 2022 this number has almost doubled to over 200,000 cases.   This increase has also resulted in the resurgence of congenital syphilis, where the bacteria responsible for causing syphilis are passed through the placenta to a developing fetus.  The CDC states that the most alarming concerns center around the syphilis and congenital syphilis epidemics, signaling an urgent need for swift innovation and collaboration from all STI prevention partners.




As with all STIs, the only absolute way to prevent transmission is to abstain from any sexual activity.  But there are things that can be done to help reduce the risk of transmission when engaging in sexual activity.

  • Get tested regularly, after new sexual partners or if a condom or barrier breaks during use
  • Use a Dam (Oral Barrier) every time you have oral/vaginal or oral/sex
  • Use a condom every time you have vaginal or anal sex
  • Don’t share sex toys or clean them before sharing
  • Condoms should be used to cover the penis during oral sex
  • Talk with your sexual partners about both of your sexual health

Some of the biggest roadblocks in prevention are the following:


  • Removing the stigma surrounding STIs
  • Increasing awareness of testing and treatment options
  • Navigating socio-economic barriers for ease of access to healthcare options
  • Having health practitioners integrate screening for sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections into routine medical care

Next Steps


The good news is that syphilis is both preventable and treatable.  So, what are next steps to make sure the messages surrounding prevention and treatment are shared across the nation?  A recent John Hopkins article states the following:


“We have good diagnostics, we know how it’s transmitted, there’s no animal reservoir, and we know how to treat it. 

But there are wider public health challenges. Screening is inadequate: While some women get routinely tested for STIs at their annual exam, men are far less likely to get routine screenings. And because many people with syphilis have no symptoms, they won’t seek out screening. Plus, many at-risk patients don’t have access to health care, and a lot of sexual health clinics have closed over the last decade.

Also, the stigma of STIs doesn’t just happen from the patient side, it also comes from clinicians —many physicians think, “my patient doesn’t have syphilis.”

Finding patients’ partners has also become more difficult in the online dating era—partners are often identified with an online handle, not a physical location.”


We need to take a multi-faceted and cooperative approach to address the current public health crisis that the US is experiencing with the growing numbers of syphilis.

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Removing the Stigma Around Menstruation

As with any topic that is shrouded in secrecy or surrounded by stigma, the fallout is shame, misinformation and an inaccessibility to the necessary avenues of support.  Menstruation is one such topic.  The historical views surrounding it have resulted in both menstruation, and those who menstruate, often being presented as shameful, dirty, inferior and impure.  Only by having open and factual conversations can we all correct this skewed and erroneous view surrounding menstruation and its impact on reproductive health.


Historical Views of Menstruation


The historical writings and viewpoints surrounding menstruation have aided in creating an environment of shame.  A Globe and Mail article based on Jen Gunter’s latest book Blood: The Science, Medicine, and Mythology of Menstruation  speaks of the menstrual cycle as “the wheel that drives humanity”.   


Writings from around AD70, by Pliny the Elder state that menstruation “is productive of the most monstrous effects”. And he further writes that crops “will wither and die”, and bees “will forsake their hives if touched by a menstruous woman”.   The concept of menses being toxic was prevalent throughout many historical writings.  The Medieval Era brought with it religious shame surrounding menstruation, resulting in finding ways to cover up the presence of one’s period.  The Tudor Era (late 1400s-1600s) added another layer of shame and misinformation with the beliefs that “menstruation was thought to be a punishment from God, a curse on Eve for succumbing to temptation in the Garden of Eden. Menstruating women were regarded to be dirty and unclean, thus the church forbade them from using pain medications to endure the suffering.” 


As much as one would hope that opinions improved into the 1900s, the nature of advertisements point to this as still being a taboo topic that required hiding.  In 1950, Good Housekeeping, the popular women’s magazine, published an advert for Modess’ newly packaged sanitary towels, which read: “So skilfully shaped not to look like a napkin box, that the sharpest eyes couldn’t guess what’s inside the wrapping.” 




A euphemism is defined by the Oxford Languages as “a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.”   And that definition pretty much sums up the tone of how periods have been viewed throughout history.


The sheer number of euphemisms that exist about menstruation support the overriding tone of unpleasantness and embarrassment.  According to a 2016 survey by Clue, the period-tracking app, more than 5,000 euphemisms are used around the world for menstruation.  A few are as follows: That time of the month, Aunt Flo, surfing the crimson tide, moon time, the curse, the visitor, my girl, Carrie, the English have landed, on the rag, shark week, and a variety of others, some by country and regions. 


Removing the Shame


Ultimately, we must all understand that periods are simply a natural biological process that needs to be discussed openly.  The only way to have access to reproductive healthcare, information and products is by having conversations about them.  Everyone needs to feel safe and comfortable discussing menstruation, including having access to period products and healthcare.  Reproductive health is shrouded in misinformation as well due to this uncomfortable and shameful tone through history.  Many people who bleed do not access medical assistance for reproductive conditions due to shame or embarrassment, miss school, sports and work due to lack of access to period products, choose between food/rent/bills versus period products (otherwise known as period poverty), or suffer in silence from painful periods, endometriosis, and other reproductive conditions. 


This overtone is still prevalent in today’s society and this history of menstrual stigma continues to have a negative impact on people who menstruate. In 2021, a group of researchers concluded that feelings of stigma and shame perpetuate the expectation that people should hide their menstruation.

We MUST begin to speak openly about menstruation. We need to remove the euphemisms that shroud it as shameful and secret. We need to make period products (tampons, pads, menstrual cups) accessible to all people who require them.  We need to educate society that menstruation is a normal physical biological process.  We need to remove the verbiage “feminine hygiene” and replace it with menstrual products. As Jen Gunter states “They are not “feminine hygiene” products because needing them is not a sign of being feminine – it’s a sign that you need something to catch blood – and they’re not hygiene products because menstruating is not unhygienic. They are menstrual products. And they’re essential.


It is only by all working together that we can change the conversation around menstruation and reproductive health.

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Period Poverty

Period Poverty & Its Impact


Period Poverty is a reality for many all around the world! Period Poverty can be defined as the lack of access to safe and hygienic menstrual products during monthly periods and inaccessibility to basic sanitation services or facilities as well as menstrual hygiene education.  This directly impact one’s ability to navigate daily living activities. The lack of access to hygiene products can cause feelings of both seclusion and exclusion. People stay home from school or work, unable to participate in daily activities.  Period Poverty can impact one’s mental health, resulting in anxiety, shame and isolation.  One’s physical health can also be impacted with a lack of access to proper hygiene, including water and basic hygiene supplies.


How Then Do We End Period Poverty?


Education and awareness are the most effective ways to help remove the stigma surrounding menstruation.  The removal of this stigma and shame that is attached to it is only the beginning.  In any given month more than 1.8 billion people are menstruating. We need to create and share with all genders a message of normalcy around menstruation so that everyone can have dignity, health and an ease of access to supplies to fill their needs.  But again, this is only the beginning. Understanding that these products are a necessity and, therefore, need to be accessible to all in need is the next step.  This requires making them readily available to everyone, especially anyone struggling financially or impacted by harmful social misconceptions or ideologies.  Menstruation should never limit anyone’s potential or ability to function in any situation.


US Statistics and Period Poverty


A 2019 US study found that 64% of menstruators noted that they struggled to afford menstrual products within the last year. Stemming from the cost of products, stigmas, education, and the world pandemic, those who menstruate struggle to afford menstruation products and have adequate education on the subject


The summary of takeaways from that study are:


  • Period poverty, or the lack of information and education about menstruation as well as access to menstrual products, in the US affects all menstruators but especially those who are low-income, homeless, in college, imprisoned, or transgender. 
  • With the recent inflation problems, Bloomberg reported that prices for pads rose 8.3% and tampons prices rose 9.8% in 2021. 
  • A study done by St. Louis University on period poverty found that 36% of those surveyed who were full-time or part-time employed had to miss one or more days of work a month because of a lack of menstrual products during their periods. 
  • Research done on the financial benefit of using menstrual cups estimates over 10 years found that a reusable cup would be 5% of the purchase of pads and 7% of the purchase cost of tampons. A reusable cup would also produce 0.4% of the plastic waste used for pads and 6% of the plastic waste used for tampons. 


The lack of access to period products is directly linked to many social and economical factors.  Period Poverty can be either a lack of access to or an inability to afford to purchase products. As having to choose between food or hygiene products is more and more an increased reality, we all need to work on reassessing how to overcome this issue.  


Next Steps?


Period poverty is a multi-faceted issue. What does that mean? It means it will take a multi-faceted solution.  This includes education, dispelling of myths and misconceptions, normalizing menstruation around the world, addressing basic access to hygiene necessities, economical solutions, eradicating social prejudices, and ultimately creating an environment where menstruation is simply a biological process. Period Poverty is a basic human rights issue that needs to be addressed with the following:


  • They need to have the right to use safe menstrual products during their monthly menses.
  • They need to have the right to a safe and private place to manage their menses, as well as clean water sources and facilities.
  • Everyone needs to have good knowledge about menses to understand the difficulty that a woman has to go through every month.
  • Knowledge of menses can also help avoid negative stigma about menstrual periods. As long as people have a mindset that menstrual products are not a priority, women will always be discriminated against, and it will not be easy for them to purchase menstrual tools, seek help when they are in need, and learn correct knowledge about menstrual health. 

Only by all working together can we help to find solutions to ensure these basic needs are met for all.

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Syphilis & the Stages of Infection

Syphilis & the Stages of Infection


Syphilis is an STI that presents in many different stages.  It can be asymptomatic to start but can develop into life threatening issues if left untreated.  How then do you know if you have syphilis???  You get tested regularly. Your sexual wellness is important to all aspects of your health and requires attention and prevention to maintain its wellness.


What is Syphilis?


Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum.  It is spread by unprotected vaginal, anal, and even oral sex.  It is highly contagious and can cause permanent damage without treatment.  Syphilis is spread from skin-to-skin contact by someone with a sore or chancre.  It is often spread unknowingly as not all infected individuals are aware of its presence. This is why testing for STIs is so important. 


Stages of Syphilis


There are four main stages of syphilis each with its own set of symptoms:  Primary, Secondary, Latent, and Tertiary.


Primary Stage:


  • A sore or sores at the original site of infection.
  • These sores can be found on or around the genitals, the anus or rectum, or in or around the mouth.
  • These sores are usually firm, round, and painless.
  • They heal within 3-6 weeks even without treatment


Secondary Stage:


  • Skin rashes may appear on palms of hands and bottoms of feet.  They are not always itchy
  • Mucous membrane lesions can appear in the mouth, anus, or vagina
  • Can also have a fever, swollen lymph glands and sore throat
  • Other symptoms may include patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches, and/or fatigue


Latent Stage:


  • This stage is when you have no visible signs or symptoms of syphilis
  • If you did not have any treatment, you can continue to have syphilis without any signs or symptoms for many years


Tertiary Stage:


  • This is a rare stage but very serious. It presents with damage to organs and body systems
  • This stage can result in death

The different stages can all present with secondary complications from the systemic impact on one’s overall health.  These complications can present in many different ways dependent upon the stage of the infection.


Testing and Treatment


Testing for syphilis is simple with either a blood test or swab of a chancre.  Syphilis is easy to test and treatable with antibiotics.  It is very important that you tell your sexual partners if you test positive so that they may get tested as well.  According to the CDC reported cases of syphilis (all stages) have increased 74 percent since 2017, totaling more than 176,000 cases in 2021.




As with all STIs, the only way to prevent transmission is to abstain from any sexual activity.  But there are things that can be done to help reduce the risk of transmission when engaging in sexual activity.


  • Get tested regularly, after new sexual partners or if a condom or barrier breaks during use
  • Use a Dam (Oral Barrier) every time you have oral/vaginal or oral/anal sex
  • Use a condom every time you have vaginal or anal sex
  • Don’t share sex toys or clean them before sharing
  • Condoms should be used to cover the penis during oral sex
  • Talk with your sexual partners about both of your sexual health

There are many ways to effectively help prevent the transmission of syphilis and maintain one’s sexual wellbeing. Using condoms and oral barriers, either latex and non-latex for those with allergies, are an important part of safer sex practices. Regular testing as needed is also a responsible and healthy practice to implement into one’s life.  Sexual health is important to maintain throughout all the stages of one’s life.

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National Dam Day


November 22 is National Dental Dam Day!  Dams, otherwise known as Oral Barriers, are gaining awareness for their important role in helping prevent STIs during oral sex.


What exactly is an oral barrier?   An oral barrier or dam is a sheet of latex or polyisoprene (non-latex) that is used as a barrier when performing oral-vaginal or oral-anal sex.  They are used to help reduce the transmission of infections that can occur during any oral sex activities.


Dental Dams vs Dams?


Dental Dams were originally used to isolate a tooth from the rest of the mouth during dental procedures.  They were, and still are for that purpose, a simple 5- or 6-inch square sheet.  Folks began to use them as a barrier during oral sex as they were a better option than cling wrap or cut up condoms (neither of which meet the regulatory requirements)!  But these were not exactly conducive to the sensual aspect of oral sex due to their thickness nor met regulatory standards as an oral barrier due to their smaller size.  Enter today’s oral barrier! 


Why Give a Dam?


The late 1980s saw an increased openness in speaking about sexual wellness, safer sex practices, and sexuality in general. And more people started asking about dams.  The sheer number of STIs and the continually growing rates around the world today necessitate a variety of safer sex products.  Oral Barriers are definitely an important part of safer sex practices. 


It is also extremely important that you use a dam that meets the ISO 29942 Standards for Dams.  Yes, there is a comprehensive regulatory ISO Standard regarding dams that includes proper sizing, viral barrier testing, biocompatibility testing, tear and tensile testing and a number of other requirements.  Nobody wants to, or should have to, worry that any product being used for safer sex practices is not going to do what it should.  And in order for that to be the case it is imperative to make sure the products you use, specifically condoms and dams, are fully licensed by your country’s governing body. 


Dams that are for oral sex have a set of requirements that must be met for proper licensing as they are considered a medical device.  According to the regulatory standard all dams need to be 6 x 10 inches in size to ensure maximum coverage.  They need to have some flexibility in their tensile strength without tearing. They need to be the correct thickness to ensure they act as a viral barrier to help prevent the transmission of an STI.  They need to be made with products that are approved and meet biocompatibility standards.  They also need to be registered with either the FDA or Canada in North America. These requirements have specific parameters that MUST be met to be FDA approved or Health Canada Licensed.


Safer Sex Practices


Oral sex still has the risk of spreading infections.  The use of an oral barrier helps to reduce the risk when used consistently and properly.  There are many different factors that determine the risk of transmitting an STI.  According to the CDC, “Many STDs, as well as other infections, can be spread through oral sex. Anyone exposed to an infected partner can get an STD in the mouth, throat, genitals, or rectum. The risk of getting an STD from oral sex, or spreading an STD to others through oral sex, depends on several things, including:


  • The particular STD.
  • The sex acts practiced.
  • How common the STD is in the population to which the sex partners belong.
  • The number of specific sex acts performed.

Dams and condoms are considered medical devices in North America. This is to ensure that if they claim to help prevent STIs they have the testing and regulatory background to support that. ALWAYS make sure the products you are using are licensed or approved so that you can spread a dam, not an infection! 

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Latex Allergy & Sensitivities

What is a Latex Allergy or Sensitivity?


Latex Allergy Awareness Week


October 1-7 is Latex Allergy Awareness Week.  This week is focused on bringing an increased awareness surrounding latex allergies and sensitivities.  Latex allergies can range from mild to life threatening, and continued exposure has been shown to increase the severity. This is called sensitization.  The Mayo Clinic explains this process as your immune system identifying latex as a harmful substance and triggering certain antibodies to fight it off. The next time you're exposed to latex, these antibodies tell your immune system to release histamine and other chemicals into your bloodstream. This process produces a range of allergy symptoms. The more times you are exposed to latex, the more strongly your immune system is likely to respond.


What is Latex


Latex is a naturally occurring substance that is found beneath the bark of the rubber tree.  This milky white substance is harvested by tapping the trees.  The bark is scored and peeled back to create a channel that allows the sap to run into buckets attached to the trees.  The sap is collected and then processed  into latex that is used in many common day-to-day items.  Latex possesses a great many attributes that allow it to be used for a wide variety of items from gloves to balloons to condoms and dams.  But it also can be life threatening to people who have a latex allergy.


What are you allergic to in latex?


A latex allergy is actually an allergic reaction to the proteins present in the milky sap of the rubber tree.   Simply put, your body views the latex as something harmful.  This response causes a release of histamines to fight the “intruder”. Histamines and other chemical responses are what trigger the allergic reactions and symptoms.  It is the latex protein that creates this allergic reaction, one that can worsen over repeated exposure.  This protein is very similar to proteins in some nuts, fruits and vegetables.  It is not uncommon for people who have a latex allergy to also have allergies or sensitivities to the following foods:


  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Chestnut
  • Kiwi
  • Apple
  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Papaya
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Melons

What is Polyisoprene?


Interestingly enough, polyisoprene is created either by removing the allergy producing protein from natural rubber or as a totally synthetic product created in a laboratory setting.  But polyisoprene retains the many attributes that natural latex has with its softness, tear and tensile strength, and comfort.  Polyisoprene condoms and dams are a safer option for anyone who has latex sensitivities or allergies.  They provide a necessary alternative for the growing number of individuals who suffer from latex allergies.


Pros & Cons of Polyisoprene


There are far more pros than cons when it comes to polyisoprene condoms and dams!  The pros are obvious!  You can enjoy safer sex without the concerns of a latex allergic reaction to the condoms or dams being used.   Polyisoprene condoms and dams are a safe replacement for any latex condom or dam.   The cons are very few and far between!   The one that first comes to mind is that they are a bit more costly than their latex alternatives.


Protect Your Health!


Protection is available for everyone, even those with a latex allergy or sensitivity.  The options are growing for access to polyisoprene condoms and dams.  Harmony Polyisoprene Dams are available in both retail and bulk options.  Your health, all aspects of it, is worth protecting. 

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Choice – A Necessity in Contraception



Choice is something everyone should have the right to when it comes to making decisions about one’s sexual health and wellness, including contraception.  Choice can be defined as the following:

  • an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities.
  • the right or ability to make, or possibility of making, such a selection.
  • a range of possibilities from which one or more may be selected
  • a course of action, thing, or person that is selected or decided upon.


September 26 is World Contraception Day and the theme for this year is “The Power of Options”. It is absolutely crucial to be empowered when it comes to one’s sexual health. And empowerment comes through choice, education and knowledge. 


Education is Key


Education is a key component of empowerment.  It is only through awareness and knowledge that one can make an informed decision regarding the best options for one’s health.  When you have access to correct, informative and useful information, then you can make decisions based on how best to fill your needs.  This also means you must always make sure that the sources you are accessing are credible. Information is available from health practitioners, clinics, and sexual wellness facilities.


Types of Contraceptives


Contraceptives are available in many different formats, offering options based on factors such as lifestyle, health considerations, availability, future plans, and, ultimately, preference.  These include different hormonal options, IUDs, assorted barrier methods, and surgical options to name a few.   The good news is that there are options to choose from that best fit one’s lifestyle. Even within each group of contraceptives there are choices available, allowing one to further tailor their contraceptive needs.  One very important thing to remember is that not all contraceptives aid in the prevention of STIs. Always make sure to use a condom or dam (oral barrier) when engaging in penetrative or oral sex.


The Power of Options


The theme of 2023’s World Contraception Day is The Power of Options.  This theme is based on more than just the varied contraceptive options. It also focuses on the power those options allow to be formative in choosing one’s life path. These could include family planning, child spacing, increased reproductive health, gender equality and continuing to aid in open communication around sexual wellness.  When there are options and choices that allow individuals to choose what works best for them, then the odds of healthy practices being implemented rise.  In order for something to work, it needs to work for the individual. Offering choices in contraception simply allow everyone to choose what will work best for them.

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Sex & Aging

Sex and Aging!


Sex through all stages of life


Yes – your grandparents are probably still having sex!  As are your parents.  And the truth is, age does not have to stop anyone from enjoying having sex.  Our sexual health is an important part of our lives regardless of age.  But the natural aging process does impact our physiological make up, which then can impact some aspects of sexual activity.


How does aging impact sexual health?


The many physical changes that aging can bring may impact one’s sexual activity. This can include everything from age related illness, lower libidos, hormonal changes, muscle loss/weakness, to the many side effects of medications.  But there are ways to navigate these changes to continue to have an active and healthy sex life into one’s later years. 


The reality is that as we age our bodies change. This is true of our reproductive organs and hormones as well. These changes may bring about new obstacles that may include the following:


  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Decreased testosterone or estrogen levels
  • Changes in the structure of the vagina
  • Reduced production of vaginal lubrication
  • Mental health concerns regarding body image related to aging
  • Decreased libido due to hormonal changes
  • Sleep issues that could impact sexual desire

Many of these concerns can be dealt with through speaking with your health practitioner for assistance. There are medications, creams and naturopathic options to help alleviate many age-related sexual health concerns. 


Communication is Key


As with so many things in our lives, communication is the key!  As we deal with the many changes aging brings into our lives, we need to maintain open discussions with our partners.  This will allow both parties the opportunity to express their changing needs, if any, that are the result of age-related changes.


It may be as simple as more intimacy before any sexual activity, using lubricant, discussing any shame related to body changes or sexual activity so everyone can move forward within a trust-filled relationship, or simply acknowledging that things are different.  But different does not have to mean bad. Different can be exciting and fun as you find new ways to express your sexual lives together.


Safer Sex Practices are for All Ages!


The Mayo Clinic states that an ongoing interest in sex, as well as satisfaction with the frequency and quality of sexual activity, is positively associated with health in later life.  Older adults can continue to enjoy an active sex life.  This can be with a long-term partner or, due to divorce or the death of a spouse, with new partners.  With this in mind, sexual activity at any age requires one to continue to implement safer sex practices to aid in the prevention of STIs. This includes the use of condoms, oral barriers (dams) and lubricants.  STIs can be transmitted at any age!


Many older adults view prevention from a pregnancy point of view only.  This results in a false belief that one does not need to use prevention.  This becomes apparent when we see that overall STIs are on the rise in North America, with infections among adults age 65 and older more than doubled between 2007 and 2017.  Regardless of one’s age, safer sex practices need to be incorporated so that one can stay sexually healthy while having a viable and healthy sex life.

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Condoms Colorful History

Condoms: Colorful & Controversial




Condoms have had a very colorful and sometimes controversial history, especially in North America.  Condoms, in varying forms, and other means of birth control have been around for centuries.  Early contraceptives were made from materials on hand ranging from animal dung, horns, animal intestines, to seaweed.  But they did not come neatly packaged in paper or foils.  That only really began in the late 1830s with the invention of vulcanized rubber and the massive impact it had on the condom industry.


Mass Production of Condoms


The general perception of the 1800’s Victorian Era is not usually one of open sexuality or ease of access to contraceptives.  But it actually was!


“Condom production ballooned after 1839, when Charles Goodyear’s method of rubber vulcanization kick-started modern latex technologies in the United States. By 1870, condoms were available through almost any outlet you can imagine–drug suppliers, doctors, pharmacies, dry-goods retailers and mail-order houses. It may seem surprising today, but sexual products were openly sold and distributed during much of the 19th century.”


So, condoms were everywhere and easy to access. Until the hammer came down in the form of Comstock’s Act.


Comstock’s Act


Anthony Comstock began a huge reform movement that actually was passed by the US Congress as a Law.  Comstock’s Act was passed in 1873 after Comstock equated contraception to a free license to partake in sexual shenanigans and infidelity.  This made the sale, advertising, or mailing of any contraceptive illegal. It could actually result in prison time!  


Although it impacted the explicit sale of condoms, it most certainly did not stop them.  Folks, being resilient and resourceful as always, just found a loophole to market them different. And part of this new approach was for the prevention of infections.


Prevention vs Contraception


The advent of science and the understanding of germs, transmission included, was applied to condoms as a way to market them.  Suddenly they could offer a product “for safety” and not even mention contraception.   This concept of infection prevention was only beginning to be understood.  The advent of World War I brought it home…. literally.  STIs, especially gonorrhea and syphilis, were rampant in the troops.  The fight against STIs was on, but still as a reaction to the issue not as prevention.  The concept of disease prevention would still need some more time.




Condoms began to be viewed as a necessary medical device to help combat and prevent STIs.  This saw the rise of messaging on condom packaging with references to safety during sex.  Condom messaging was not about pleasure and fun, but about being safer to help reduce the possibility of contracting a Venereal Disease.


But it still wasn’t until 1937 that the FDA instituted a national standard for testing of condoms to make sure they met safety guidelines.  And then condoms and the advertising of their merits were fully used as North America entered World War II.  Access to condoms was military de rigueur.  The messaging was to protect your country and yourself.  Condoms advertised their function to the user with the names and messages on the packaging. 


Today condoms are still an important medical device for safer sex practices.  But they are now also seen as something that can be for pleasure as well.  They are available for use as contraceptives, help in preventing or reducing the transmission of infections, and for pleasure or fun. Due to the myriad of options available, condoms can be both fun and functional.  Condoms have had an interesting and controversial history, one that continues to evolve over time.

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STIs and Testing

STIs and Testing


How to Begin the Testing Path


We have all heard how testing is an important component of our Sexual Health, but often times we do not know where to get tested.  Testing is available in many places within North America. You can begin by asking your doctor, going to a clinic or public health facility for guidance. Testing is free at many facilities including family doctors’ offices, walk-in clinics, sexual health clinics, and other public health units and community centres. 


What Types of Testing Do I Need?


The type of test needed is directly dependent upon what you are being tested for.  There are a few different types of STI Test procedures; most of them are simple and easy to have done.

  • Blood tests are done for the following: hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, syphilis and herpes (HSV).
  • Urine tests or genital swabs can be done for the following: gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis.
  • Oral swabs can be done for the following: gonorrhea, chlamydia, HSV and HPV.
  • Anal swabs can be done for the following: anal chlamydia, gonorrhea and HPV.
  • Lesions swabs can be done for the following: HSV, HPV and syphilis.

It is important to get tested if having multiple sexual partners, the condom or dam breaks or slips, you are not sure of the status of your partner, at an annual checkup, if showing symptoms or know of recent exposure, and/or as part of your routine ongoing health care.


The bottom line is that folks of all genders and sexual orientations should be tested once a year, after unprotected sex, or in between new partners — whichever comes first!


Exposure to different STIs also come with different timelines for testing.  There are different incubation periods for the different STIs.  This incubation period means the time between infection and the appearance of symptoms.  This ranges between a couple of days to a few months. This is something to discuss with your healthcare provider to get specific answers about in order to test within the appropriate time to avoid false negative results.


How Long Before I Get Results?


Most of the test results are completed between 2-5 days.  But never assume you are negative if you do not hear back from your test provider. Always call and confirm the results before engaging in sexual activities.  Tests are also available for use within the privacy of your home.  These ones are generally something that requires payment.  The in-home testing is an alternative for folks who are uncomfortable going to a healthcare provider for testing. 


Results and Next Steps


Once you have received your results, the next steps depend upon what they were.  If you are positive, then there are steps that need to be taken. These are dependent upon the diagnosis, and often times involve medication, sharing your diagnosis with past sexual partners and/or a host of treatment options to help manage symptoms and future outbreaks.  The reality is that 1 in 2 people will experience an STI within their lifetime.  With that representing 50% of the population, we need to continue to remove the stigma from STIs, create awareness about them and the prevention options available, make testing easily accessible and known, and work together to lessen the epidemic proportions of STIs worldwide.

Together we can make a difference!

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