Valentines Day marks the beginning of Planned Parenthood’s annual “National Condom Week,” an advocacy effort to promote healthy sexual habits. Planned Parenthood health centers across the country are giving away free condoms, and spreading resources about everything from initiating conversations about condoms to maintaining a healthy body image.
“The truth is that condoms can actually make sex more fun and relaxed because you don’t have to worry about STIs or unintended pregnancy. Consistent condom use helps protect your health and well-being,” Leslie Kantor, Planned Parenthood’s vice president of education, said in a statement. “This Valentine’s Day, let your partner know that you want to use condoms every time you have sex — so you can both stay healthy.”
The United States has the highest rate of sexually transmitted infections in the developed world, a public health issue that racks up billions of dollars each year in medical costs. That’s partly because people aren’t using adequate barrier methods when they have sex. The resistance to condoms is a global issue, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently launched a campaign to “build a better condom” that does a better job preserving sexual pleasure.
Planned Parenthood, which is the biggest sex ed provider in the country, hopes to encourage young Americans to get in the habit of using condoms from the very first time they have sex. This coming week, the organization’s affiliates will attempt to get people talking about safe sex by holding condom contests with prizes, going on pub crawls to distribute condoms and safe sex kits in bars, and doing “condom drops” on college campuses.
However, the national group’s efforts to promote sexual health resources haven’t been without some controversy. In Tennessee, some residents have complained about the local Planned Parenthood’s “racy” billboards depicting an image of an unwrapped condom, saying they shouldn’t be so close to a school. And after Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards participated in a social media campaign about “What Women Need” this Valentines Day, pointing out they need access to the full range of reproductive health care — including abortion — the right-wing media took her statements out of context to proclaim that Richards wants to give women abortions to celebrate the holiday.