Historical and International Perspectives on Condoms and STI Prevention


By the end of this lesson, participants will be able to:

1. Explain how the subjects of sexually transmitted infections and condoms were addressed at different points in history.

2. Describe the increased availability and quality of condoms during the past 50 years.

3. Compare and contrast modern condom marketing campaigns in the United States to those in other nations, and plan an imaginary campaign to increase condom use.


Throughout most of human history, heterosexual couples have been vulnerable to unplanned pregnancies as well as sexually transmitted infections. A variety of early condoms were designed for disease prevention by early sexual health advocates, and although rubber condoms became available in the early 1800s, they were thick, uncomfortable and not very effective. In addition, from 1873 to 1965 in the United States, federal and state “Comstock Laws” forbade the promotion and distribution of any contraceptive, including condoms. In contrast, today’s condoms are greatly improved and are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This lesson emphasizes that today, as never before in history, people can significantly reduce their risks of contracting a sexually transmitted infection and an unplanned pregnancy by using condoms consistently and correctly. After reviewing condom marketing in other countries, participants identify a strategy they believe would be successful for promoting condoms in the United States.

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