Throughout the United States, rates of sexually transmitted infection continue to rise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that from 2013 to 2017, syphilis rates nearly doubled, chlamydia remained at record highs, and gonorrhea cases increased by 67%. The CDC estimates that 1.1 million people in the US have HIV, but 1 in 7 people who are infected don’t know it. These national trends have been mirrored in Montana, with gonorrhea rates at a 30-year high in 2018, and syphilis cases having increased four-fold in recent years.
There’s good news, though! Condoms, when used correctly, are highly effective at preventing many STIs such as HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhea. They also help prevent pregnancy, and provide protection for anal, vaginal, and oral sex. While they do not provide full protection from STIs that can be spread from skin-to-skin contact (like genital herpes, syphilis and HPV), they can help reduce the risk of transmission. A combination of condoms and getting tested regularly for STIs (aka getting tested after each new partner and before you plan to stop using condoms with a monogamous partner), you’re taking the right steps to keep yourself healthy.
Condom Distribution Programs have been implemented across the country as an integral part of STI prevention. These programs distribute condoms for free across their community, and have been proven to significantly increase condom use, prevent HIV/STIs, and save money in the long run. For example, the New York City Health Department distributes products to over 3,500 locations; in 2015, they distributed over 37.2 million male condoms and 1.2 million internal (also known as female) condoms! When coupled with sexual education, this kind of condom distribution ensures that people have access to condoms and know how to use them correctly.
Bridgercare distributed 35,000 free condoms across south central Montana in 2018 as part of this prevention strategy. Where can they be tracked down?
Big Sky Food Bank
Bozeman Tattoo Alley
Gallatin Valley Food Bank
Dorms inside the entrance of Yellowstone
The bathroom by Sheriff’s office
Freeheel & Wheel
Rise Up Montana
Southwest Chemical Dependency Center
And more locations are coming soon!
Condoms should be stored in a cool, dry place away from sharp objects and direct sunlight. Don’t keep them in your car, pocket or bathroom for more than a month, because heat and moisture can damage condoms over time. Before use, be sure to feel for the air bubble in the condom packaging, as condoms that are too old or damaged won’t have an air bubble.
You can stop by Bridgercare anytime we’re open- Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5:30 pm- if you’d like to pick up some condoms here! There are condoms in the waiting room that are up for grabs, or they can be purchased at $2 for 10. If have further questions or are interested in Bridgercare’s education programs that include information on proper condom use, you can reach Community Outreach Specialist Cami Armijo-Grover at firstname.lastname@example.org.