Retailers, including pharmacies, need to make sure they are safe places for people seeking to buy condoms, says a spokesperson for Sexual and Reproductive Health Western Australia.
SRPHWA is hoping to encourage people to become more comfortable buying and carrying condoms this National Condom Day (Feb 14).
“People want somewhere where they can ask questions, confidentially, where they don’t feel like all the other clients in the pharmacy will overhear what they’re saying,” Ms Smith told the AJP.
“While we’re making headway, and a lot of the stigma involved with buying contraceptives has been removed or improved, there’s still some stigma, for some people, attached to first of all buying condoms and then with raising the issue with their partner when the time comes to use them.
“It’s up to organisations like ours, and people like pharmacists and GPs to help break down that stigma and help people into the mindset that talking about sexual health is a great, responsible and safety-aware thing to do.”
Some groups, more than others, may be more likely to feel embarrassed about buying condoms or other contraceptives, including younger people and those who find it harder to stay anonymous – because they live in a small town, for example.
“One of the things I’d suggest for pharmacies is having condoms located in a few different locations around the pharmacy – and not smack bang on the counter where your neighbour’s Mum might be there!” Ms Smith says. “This is particularly in the case for rural areas, where the pharmacist might be your neighbour’s husband and the person in line next to you might be a friend of your Grandma.
“Good access to condoms means making the pharmacy a safe space to access them and ask questions – confidentiality is the keyword here.
“It’s great if you want to shout it from the rooftops that you’re grabbing some condoms, but most people still don’t.”
She says research shows young people are more likely to use condoms if they were available during a sexual encounter.
“Talking about safe sex early on in a relationship, before the heat of the moment, and always carrying condoms means there is less chance of people getting carried away and having unsafe sex,” she says.
“And you’re more likely to enjoy sex if you’re not worrying about STIs or pregnancy – you’re going to have a much more enjoyable experience, which is why, at the end of the day, most people choose to have sex.”
National Condom Day is also a good reminder for people to get tested if they’ve had unprotected sex in the past, including oral sex.
“Many people with an STI don’t have any symptoms, so the only way to know for sure is to get tested,” Ms Smith says. “There is a common perception that oral sex doesn’t carry the same risks as other forms of sexual activity, so young people don’t always take the appropriate precautions.”