When used correctly, female (internal) condoms are up to 95% effective at preventing pregnancy. Male (external) condoms provide a nearly impermeable barrier to particles the size of STI pathogens and HIV and are up to 98% effective at pregnancy prevention when used properly. With approximately 121 million unintended pregnancies occurring worldwide each year between 2015 and 2019, reminding ourselves of the many benefits of condom usage is imperative.
As we promote innovation in family planning, we must remember the impact of existing, proven, evidence-based methods and their potential for global health and development. Condoms are such a method.
Condoms remain the most used family-planning method among youth and the only method to offer triple protection from unintended pregnancy, STIs, and HIV. Their continued value is immense and should not be dismissed for newer methods.
“We currently only have two methods of contraception for people who produce sperm. While we are working to increase contraceptive options, it is important to be clear that this is not with the aim of displacing condom use. Condoms need to remain front and center because they work and for some people, they are the right method. They will always remain an important part of the method mix.”
As the world faces a pandemic and more humanitarian crises in the future, reliable self-care methods will become even more necessary and important for people who use or want to use family planning.
“Condoms are a user-controlled method, are easy to use and store, do not require medical prescriptions or direct provision by health care personnel or in facilities and can be used by anyone who is sexually active—including youth.”
Among adolescents and youth populations, condoms may be one of the most valuable (and affordable) methods of protection. In many geographic regions, youth are the largest proportion of the population, so it is important to invest in methods we know are used by young people.
“I am calling on you, partners, to come up with solutions regarding the placements of the condoms. Condom use is going down and this is often less a supply issue in countries than access and demand creation issues…If 90% of sexually active adolescents use condoms, how about placing them in schools and using mobile phones to buy condoms so we can reduce teenage pregnancies?”
While the need for condoms may become greater, there also needs to be a focus on demand generation and the creation of reliable supply chains. There are gaps when it comes to getting condoms to the communities where they are needed and wanted most.
“Once you know which populations your program will target and the constraints that prevent them from using condoms regularly, it’s important to step back and create a vision for a healthier, sustainable condom market.”
Knowledge SUCCESS continues to emphasize the value of condoms and highlight the informative resources that have been created. The Condoms and Family Planning: 20 Essential Resources collection features a variety of resources on condom use, evidence-based condom program management and advocacy, condom market approaches and assessments, procurement standards, and program results within case studies.
Through state-of-the-art scientific evidence, programmatic guidance, and implementation tools, the Condom Use Toolkit assists health policymakers, program managers, service providers, and others in the planning, managing, evaluating, and supporting the provision of condoms.
Through conversations with condom experts and our review of resources, the authors of the 20 Essential Resources collection share our top five learnings gleaned from developing the collection.
“From my HIV and key populations perspective, when talking about supplies and forecasting, condoms are consistently the method with the most reported stockout. That is important information to know and use.”
Now more than ever, it is important for stakeholders to invest in proven solutions like condoms. Here are concrete and tangible steps that decision-makers, funders, program managers, advocates, and knowledge management officers can take to promote condoms.
Condoms work, are being used, and are wanted. To harness their greatest impact, we must continue to keep condoms central to global health and development discussions and efforts. Each of us can do something.