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The History of Condoms

Centuries of Safer Sex

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Updated April 24, 2007

Around the world, between six and nine billion condoms are used each year. Unfortunately, their use is not universally accepted. Experts agree that condom use can dramatically reduce the number of new HIV and STD infections each year. Even the Catholic religion, who has always strictly forbidden their use, has recently announced they are considering allowing them in very special circumstances. Yet, some leaders within the church make accusations that condoms don't work and should not be used. Just a few months ago, Pope Benedict said that HIV and AIDS should be controlled with abstinence only. Have you ever wondered where condoms came from? Are you curious to know when they were first used and who invented them? This brief history lesson will answer those questions and provide you with some interesting trivia for your next dinner party.

1000 BC
As far as anyone can tell, this is roughly when the use of condoms was first recorded in history. Unlike today's latex or polyurethane, the first condoms were made of oiled silk paper, linen sheaths, leather, or very thin hollow horn.

AD 200
Cave paintings dating back to the year 200 depict condom use, the earliest known visual evidence of their use.

1500s
An Italian doctor by the name of Gabrielle Fallopius (for whom, coincidentally, the female fallopian tube was named) suggested that linen sheath condoms be used to protect against syphilis, a deadly epidemic at that time in history.

1640s
Reports say farmers in Condom, France began using sheep guts as condoms, possibly the origin of the lambskin condom.

1660s
Allegedly, the name "condom" was coined when Charles II was given oiled sheep intestines to use as condoms by a Dr. Condom. However, some believe the name "condom" came from the Latin word "condus" which means "vessel".

1855
Rubber is introduced as a component of condoms. Men are advised that these rubber condoms can be washed and reused until they crumble.

1912
The introduction of latex makes condoms cheap and disposable. Thus, the single-use condom is born. By World War II, latex condoms are mass produced and given to troops all over the world.

1950s
The latex condom is improved by making them thinner, tighter and lubricated. Also, the reservoir tip is introduced that collects semen in the end, decreasing the risk of leakage and unintentional pregnancy.

1980s
Once a source of embarrassment and absolutely forbidden from being advertised in print or on television, the emergence of HIV as a sexually transmitted disease takes condoms into the mainstream. Experts agree that condoms are the best way outside of abstinence to avoid HIV.

2006
Condom sales reach nine billion worldwide. Experts have found the spermicides that kill sperm to prevent pregnancy also increase the risk of HIV; they agree that condoms with spermicides should never be used. Also, with the emergence of latex allergies, condoms are now available made of polyurethane for those people with latex allergies.

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Source: Moreton, Cole."Blessed are the condoms: Why even the Pope may have to learn to love them ." The Independent. 26 Nov 2006.

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