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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

With a pair of scissors, a condom and ninja-like precision, a dental dam may just be at your fingertips.

Most people know about roll-on condoms (also known as male condoms), but there are other forms of protection that leave people wondering, “I put THAT where?” Dental dams, insertable condoms and anti-HIV medication give sexually active individuals the means to say safe in whatever situation they find themselves.

One of the more obscure forms of protection from sexually transmitted infections, dental dams, provides a physical barrier during oral sex.

“A lot of people do not really associate oral sex and the need for protection” Samantha Evans, GatorWell sexual health educator, said.

The main threat the thin piece of latex protects against is STIs that could affect the mouth, throat, anus or genitalia. STIs, like syphilis and herpes, can be contracted by performing or by receiving oral sex with someone with these infections, according to the Center of Disease and Control.  

Dental dams can be hard to find, but Evans, 38, shared an innovative suggestion to create one using a more commonly found form of protection. Take a roll-on condom, cut along the side of the ridge, make an incision on the tip of the condom and unroll it. Even though it is not as big as a prepackaged dental dam, it does provide a flat latex material that can be placed over the vaginal or anal opening.

Because someone must hold it in place, the dental dam can be cumbersome. The solution calls for a specialty piece.

“People can actually buy harnesses that will allow you to pull the dental dam tight and put it on,” Evans said.  “Neither partner has to worry about using their hands to hold the dental dam.”

Another hands-free option is the insertable condom (as known as the female condom), which, in Evans’ experience, has left her audiences with a bewildered look.

“It's kind of big, and people look at it and are like, ‘What is that thing’?’” Evans said.

She explains that the idea of roll-on condoms have been around since the Egyptian period, making it a tool used for centuries. But the insertable condom has only been around for a few decades, making it an unlikely contender for the choice protection device.

Not only that, but photos of the insertable device are shiver-worthy. Many women feel uncomfortable with the insertable condom.

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“Appearance-wise it can be kind of a turn off for some girls, and some girls may not be comfortable inserting the female condom into the vaginal canal,” said Nerissa Patel, 28, a health educator for the Alachua County Department of Health.

Although not a form of barrier protection, PrEP, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, prevents users from contracting HIV. When taken every day once a day, the medication protects HIV-negative individuals from contracting the STI even if they have sex without a condom, but it does not protect against other STIs.

“I liken it to hormonal birth control but for HIV,” said Patel.

The medication can be taken by both men and women and protects the cells that would be attached if someone was exposed to the virus.

When taken daily, the medication is up to 99% effective at preventing HIV, according to theiPrEx study. But even with PrEP’s high effectiveness, barrier protection should still be used to prevent STIs. With options like dental dams and insertable condoms, there’s something for everyone.

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