By Kevin de Vera
February 14, 2020
As a kid, I've always enjoyed Valentine's Day. It would be the day I would draw hearts on small pieces of paper and give them to my loved ones. Little did I know that Valentine's Day is more of a day for couples, a day of romance as two hearts come together exchanging chocolates and flowers, sweet kisses and warm hugs. I am sure that most of the little kids out there, just like when I was once, know that Valentine's Day is the day to tell everyone you love how much you love them. More than being a day for two hearts coming together, this special holiday becomes instrumental for HIV advocates to promote condom use.
Why make such a loving day a condom day?
The 14th of February is not a magical day when most couples do their private intimate activities as they could just do it whenever they want to. However, this day is quite significant to remind people that expressing your love can be better if coupled with a little adulting when it comes to ensuring a safe, satisfying and consensual sexual activity. In the Philippines alone, the September 2019 HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines reported that 90% of HIV transmission since 1984 is sexual contact. Given this state of HIV in the country, let the fact remind you that you would not want the day of love, roses, and hearts becomes the day you forget to bring your condoms with you.
Condoms are quite the protection you need. I've heard a number of stories that condom kept their mobile phones safe from seawater as they cross the sea from island to another. Talking about protection, apart from devoting yourself in total abstinence from sex, using a condom is your best chance to prevent HIV infection and other sexually transmitted infections (STI) like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and protozoan infections to name a few.
If you think not having a date is the worst thing that could happen to you on Valentine's Day, let me help you think otherwise
Wearing condoms should not be done as if you are wearing your everyday shirt. It must be done consistently and correctly: that your condom isn't expired, or; that hopefully, you did not treat your condom as a lucky charm in your wallet.
You cannot just put condoms anywhere. It should be away from any sharps or pointy object which might tear or pierce the condoms. It cannot be stored in places where there are heat and friction like in pockets and wallets. It should be kept away from light as it can damage its integrity like ultraviolet lights can damage the condoms within just a few hours.
Forgetting to keep your condom safely and ready for action is worse than having no date at all. Unprotected sex may result in unintended or unplanned pregnancies, STI including HIV and even stress.
A would-be self-explanatory phenomenon happens every love month (February), an increase in the number of diagnosed STI cases. Just like any business, you would just want to take the opportunity that would best benefit you. Like for advocates of sexual and reproductive health, February is just the perfect timing to hold the International Condom Day.
You have been waiting for too long, without realizing that the condom you need is just right next to you
I am not selling condoms here. In fact, I hope to share this wisdom - 'hey, there are free condoms in the health center or health station nearest you'. If you are sexually active, those health centers may even provide you the extra Valentine's Day service you might want to consider availing, get tested.
On the other hand, a variety of condoms can be easily bought from stores, and its cheap. One might be just across the road while some others even have served their business motto very well, 'every corner, everywhere', a bit of a trivia (7/11).
HIV screening and STI tests are available in Social Hygiene Clinics across the country. HIV Counseling and Screening won't even take an hour. Bear in mind that there is no harm if you get yourself screened or tested. Nerves are alright. Visiting a health center for a condom or to get tested may make you anxious, but I would say that you also felt it when you were about to meet a dentist for the very first time.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Contact GM Bicol for Free HIV counseling and screening... and grab your condoms (yeah it is free!)