Fun fact: did you know that June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBTQ+) Pride Month? (Formerly known as Gay Pride Month.) That’s right, cities around the country have celebrated LGBTQ+ people and communities for more than half a century but in 2011, the White House made it official!
Why June though? Well, back in June of 1969, protesters clashed with police outside of the famed Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City, fighting back against persecution and violence. This is considered by many as the official kick-off of the LGBTQ+ rights movement. Since then, colorful and exuberant pride parades have danced their way through the main streets and avenues of cities like New York City, San Francisco and many others in honor of the LGBTQ+ community, the rights it has and still is fighting for and the importance of visibility and living in your truth.
The mood of these pride events is often festive, and for good reason! These communities have come so far in achieving acceptance, equality and basic civil rights.
In June, and every day, we stand by our LGBTQIA+ colleagues and community members. We believe that safer sex is for everyone and access to sexual health resources is a right. We celebrate the right to love openly and honestly, and to be treated with respect and acceptance. Together We Are One.
Shifting Attitudes and Sexual Experiences
Thankfully, many things have changed over the years since the early days of pride parades and festivities! There have been many highlights around greater acceptance and expanded rights, but also devastating dark days like the impact the HIV and AIDS epidemic has had on the LGBTQ+ community. Today, with medical advancements like PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis, a medication that blocks the transmission of the HIV virus in daily pill or monthly injection form) and greater sexual education, maintaining your sexual health is more straightforward than it has been for generations.
With these shifts, social attitudes around sexual activity have also evolved over time. Unfortunately, one of the potential negative consequences of this shift is a decrease in condom usage, especially among men who have sex with men (or MSM, which includes gay and bisexual men). A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2013 found that more than half of MSM reported condomless anal sex, increasing nearly 10% from a previous study in 2005. These findings were long before the widespread availability of PrEP as a prescription.
More recently, as people in the US are prescribed PrEP to protect themselves and their partners from transmitting the HIV virus, it appears that condom use has continued to decline rapidly in these populations. An Australian survey-based study reported that between 2014 and 2017, gay and bisexual men saw PrEP prescriptions increase from 2% to 24%; during this time, they also observed condom use decrease from 46% to 31%. And for what it’s worth, these trends aren’t necessarily isolated to the LGBTQ+ community community or MSM – they’re being observed more broadly, too.
Let’s talk about why that matters. The more concerning trend is that the CDC is also seeing huge spikes in new syphilis, HIV, gonorrhea and chlamydia infections (read more about that here). In fact, a 2016 study by UCLA found that PrEP users were more than 25 times more likely to acquire gonorrhea and nearly 45 times more likely to develop syphilis. We can’t understate the importance of these medical advancements and the greater confidence that people feel in having sexual experiences. But with the surge in sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and early signals of the return of mpox (formerly Monkeypox), it is more important than ever to take the easy steps to maintain our sexual health and protect our loved ones through practicing safer sex at pride this year.
Practicing Safer Sex at Pride
When you or your friends are packing a bag for pride events this year with sunscreen, water and snacks, think about adding some condoms, oral dams, and lube to your bag! As long as they’re not expired, in heat greater than 104 degrees Fahrenheit or in direct sunlight, of course. :)
Standard latex condoms can help significantly lower the risk of transmitting sexually transmitted diseases (or sexually transmitted infections), and are up to 99% effective when used correctly. Practicing safer sex at pride won’t kill the mood, we promise – it’ll help you manage risk factors and maintain your sexual health. This can be as easy as one, two, three:
- Communication: Discuss your most recent test results, any risk factors to consider and the preferences of each partner. Share as much as you feel comfortable, and try to remember that the more you know, the more you can feel confident and trusting in your sexual experiences. This will also ensure that everyone involved is consenting in an active and evolving way, especially in the party atmosphere of some pride events. If you’re feeling shy or bashful about starting the conversation, we put together some quick tips and tricks.
- Safer Sex: Use a condom with partners for oral, anal and vaginal sex. Check out the different types of condoms that might fit your style and/or preference. Don’t forget to bring along some lube to spice things up – silicone and water based lubricants are the best option, as baby oil, petroleum jelly and other oil-based products damage the latex rubber and risk the condom breaking. You can even create a dental dam from standard condoms, if you plan on getting into additional oral fun (including mouth to vagina or mouth to anus). Make sure you clean up after yourself too!
- Regular Testing and Sexual Health Care: Health professionals recommend regular testing every three to six months. Consider getting tested before and after pride at an interval that makes sense for you, just so that you can stay in the know about your sexual health and wellness. Testing can be done at your local health centers or doctor’s office. Need help finding the closest testing location for you? Planned Parenthood has some great resources on their site.
Looking to restock your collection of sexual health products like condoms and lube this summer? You can select from our wide selection of condoms and lubes on our site. Don’t forget our custom bundles. This pride season we are especially excited to roll out our ONE® Condoms Special Edition Pride Pack!
We know you and your partner(s) will love these products as much as we do, they will set the celebratory mood and just as importantly, ensure you have supplies on hand to keep your pride experiences sexy and safer!