As sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and unwanted pregnancy rates continue to rise, the need for education about the use of condoms remains clear. Research has shown that consistent and correct use of male latex condoms can reduce the risk of STD transmission by 98 percent and is equally useful in the prevention of pregnancy when used in conjunction with a spermicide.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 19 million new STD infections each year in the U.S. — half of them in 15 to 24-year-olds. The cost of STDs is estimated to be $15.9 billion annually according to the CDC, "Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2008." Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; November 2009.

Statistics by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and "Fast Stats, Teen Birth," reveal that the U.S. teen birth rate increased by one percent in 2007. Teen births increased three percent in 2006 following a 14-year decline. Findings published in the report "Births: Preliminary Data for 2007" show that the total number of births rose in 2007 to 4,317,119, the highest number of births ever registered in the United States.

The CDC report "Condoms and STDs: Fact Sheet for Public Health Personnel,", presents evidence that male latex condoms are highly effective in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS and reduces the risk of other STDs. "Condom use may reduce the risk for genital human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and HPV-associated diseases, e.g., genital warts and cervical cancer. Laboratory studies have demonstrated that latex condoms provide an impermeable barrier to particles the size of STD pathogens."

Additional research in 2008 indicates 1.2 million total cases of chlamydia reported to the CDC, 1 million more cases than reported in 2007. Chlamydia remains the most commonly reported infectious disease in the United States, with gonorrhea second. Research indicates the majority of chlamydia cases go undiagnosed and unreported and estimates 2.8 million cases to be more accurate.

Adolescent girls and young women are especially hard hit by chlamydia and gonorrhea. The largest number of reported cases of both diseases in 2008 was among girls between 15 and 19 years of age, followed closely by young women 20 to 24 years of age.

In 2008, 336,742 reported cases of gonorrhea shows a slight decline from 355,991 cases in 2007. However, gonorrhea, too, is substantially under-diagnosed, under-reported, and the CDC estimates that there are twice as many new gonorrhea infections as are reported.

Though syphilis was nearly eradicated in years past, it re-emerged in 2001 and in 2008 the rate was 4.5 cases per 100,000 population, up 18 percent from 2007.

The occurrence of syphilis among women remains lower than among men, but rates have increased each year since 2004. In 2008, the syphilis rate among women increased 36 percent from the previous year.

The majority of cases of syphilis occur among men having sex with men (MSM). The rise is of particular concern because syphilis infection can facilitate HIV transmission.

"HIV infection is, by far, the most deadly STD, and considerably more scientific evidence exists regarding condom effectiveness for prevention of HIV infection than for other STDs. The body of research on the effectiveness of latex condoms in preventing sexual transmission of HIV is both comprehensive and conclusive. The ability of latex condoms to prevent transmission of HIV has been scientifically established in 'real-life' studies of sexually active couples as well as in laboratory studies." -- Male Latex Condoms and Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Pharmacist Planning Services, Inc. (PPSI), a California non-profit dedicated to alerting and educating the public regarding health issues, highlights the importance of condom use as an urgent public health priority with the 32nd Annual National Condom Week, February 14 - 21. PPSI originated National Condom Week in 1978 at UC Berkeley. Since its inception more than a million condoms have been distributed throughout 650 college campuses across the nation.

Coinciding with National Condom Week, PPSI has launched a contest to encourage awareness and use of condoms to protect against the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. Participants are encouraged to come up with tag lines that can be used during future condom campaigns. Former winners include "When you rise, condomize"; "Love ain't free when you pay with STD"; and "When in darkness and in doubt take another condom out." Already received for this year's contest, "Slip 'em on … Slip 'em in …Save the Cost … of Raising Kin."

Send your entry to PPSI/NCW PO Box 0760 San Rafael, CA 94903-0760. Each entrant will receive three free condoms. The grand prize will be one gross (144) of condoms to be awarded during April’s STD Awareness month. Prizes awarded on April 30th 2010.

Planned Parenthood is celebrating National Condom Week with a call to get informed, get involved and get protected. "To blitz fun, educational facts about condoms use the #Condom Week hashtag on Twitter." dispels myths about condoms and answers common questions about their use with accuracy and humor. We are relieved to know that every condom sold in the U.S. is electronically tested to ensure it has no holes. Environmentalists can rest assured that the latex to make condoms comes from the sap of rubber trees. However, no data on the sustainability of the sap is offered.

The Connection also informs that latex can stretch more than 800% without breaking, but warns, "You can even pull one over your head, but please don't try this at home!"