Dr. Julio Montaner, executive director of the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, credits B.C.’s aggressive fight against the disease.
But he warns against assuming that people use condoms less today because they think medication will keep them from getting infected. Montaner says past studies have shown that’s not the case.
Instead, Montaner thinks sexual health researchers can learn from B.C.’s approach in the fight against HIV/AIDS, which includes targeting at-risk populations and offering prophylactic treatment to prevent the disease’s spread.
“What we need to recognize is that further efforts are required so that we can expand that kind of success to other areas,” Montaner said.
Buying condoms daunting for some
Kirsten Gilbert, sex education director at Options for Sexual Health, concedes that the AIDS epidemic isn’t as prevalent in popular culture.
But she says youth are just as scared today about getting an STI as they were 30 years ago.
“The argument that kids these days aren’t scared enough doesn’t compute for me as why they’re using condoms less,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert says young people are making different choices about their sexual health — including waiting longer to have sex, and using hormonal birth control when they do. And most of them are using condoms, albeit a bit less than before.
She argues that the key to fighting sexually transmitted infections is to provide people with comprehensive sexual education that includes teaching how to choose the right kind of condoms and how to use them effectively.
Despite advances in sexual education in B.C. schools, Gilbert says, she still encounters students in their late teens who have never seen a condom or been shown what to do with it.
“Buying condoms can seem extraordinarily daunting to someone without a lot of confidence, without a lot of knowledge, and without a lot of experience,” she said.