Vancouver
2 min

Free but inferior condoms

Why isn't the government giving us the best protection?

Studies show that some condoms break more often than others. So why isn’t the government giving gay guys the condoms that are least likely to break?

Like everyone else, gay men deserve the very best in healthcare and safer sex protection. To support our taking care of ourselves, the government generously provides free condoms to various community groups for distribution.

The condoms are appreciated and, it seems, used often. I asked a local gay shop if they sell many condoms. The answer: they sell more to straight people since gay guys use the free ones from the government.

The free ones generally come from the Ministry of Health, which supplies Durex Sheik Sensi-Creme.  They come in a red package that says Durex on them.

One  local agency gives out more than 50,000 such condoms a year. Some of those 50,000 will inevitably break in use, but we want that number to be as small as possible, right?

Consumer Reports tested 22 condom brands for breakage. Unfortunately Durex Sensi-Creme was not one of them.

In February 2010 Consumer Reports found seven condoms that passed all their tests. It’s rare that anything passes all their tests. Our Ministry of Health condoms are not among of the seven top-scoring brands.

Assuming the seven that passed are the best condoms currently on the market, I have to ask: why doesn’t the ministry hand out one of those brands rather than one untested by Consumer Reports?

Maybe the Ministry of Health never bothered to research the quality of the condoms it purchases for us. Maybe it just does not care. Homophobia? More likely just uncaring.

Maybe the ministry wants to save money, especially since another department pays for treating sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Maybe the community never questioned the government on its choice of condoms before.

Granted, it’s not like the Durex condoms took the test and failed. They just haven’t been tested by Consumer Reports.

So, time to do some more research. I called the BC Centre for Disease Control (the arm of the Ministry of Health that gives out condoms) and asked:  “How was the brand chosen?” and “Do you have any data on breakage rate?”

The Centre for Disease Control got back to me and said they are concerned about quality but do not have ratings for the condoms they’re distributing. They said the supplier screens for quality, but no additional information is available.

So I called Durex to ask them about breakage rates for the Sensi-Creme condoms. They told me they had no data comparing different brands for breakage and that they knew of no other research regarding this brand.

I asked if they have a brand they recommend for anal sex. Durex manager Brandy Schwing did not know the answer to this question but said she would get back to me. She never did.

Some people might say, “Stop whining; the condoms are free. If you don’t like them go buy your own.” But imagine if someone told you, “Stop whining. We will give you mediocre heart surgery and if you don’t like it go find your own and pay for it yourself.”