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New Year's Resolutions for Safer Sex!

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With so many people writing lists of things to do and achieve in the new year, January is the perfect time to do a little sexy housekeeping!

The easiest thing you can do this January to help you work and play safer and with peace of mind is to check your condom expiry dates. That's right - condoms have an expiry date! Latex (as well as sheepskin and other alternatives) weakens as it ages; old condoms are more likely to break. Very old condoms will even crumble when you take them out of the packet, but condoms that are close to their expiry are the most dangerous because they look fine and still have good stretch. The weakness in the latex won't be obvious, but they are much more likely to break during use.

You know that scene in the movie Grease where Rizzo and Kenicke are getting busy in the back seat of his car and the condom breaks before he even puts it on? That's because he bought it in the seventh grade... apparently a long time ago for the perpetual high-school flunker.

Not only was Kenicke's condom expired, he also kept it in his wallet - another no-no for condoms!

Age isn't the only thing that weakens condoms - sunlight, extreme cold and being folded or rubbed also weaken condoms. Condoms kept in wallets or in pockets are constantly being sat on and slightly folded and rubbed, wearing away at the latex's integrity and if the packet gets even a tiny tear in it, the condom will dry out and weaken.

The best place for condoms is somewhere cool, dry and dark where they can lie flat. And keep them away from sharp objects! A drawer is the obvious place, but to be well prepared we need to carry condoms on the go! The zippered pocket in the wall of a handbag is good, or a side pocket of your backpack. Why not store them in a hard credit card wallet or slimline cigarette tin if you need to throw them in your backpack or your pants pocket? Altoid-style tins and coin purses are also good solutions.

Some condom manufacturers even make single condoms in cute slimline tins or hard plastic sleeves that could take more of a pounding, so to speak.

Beware of purchasing unusually cheap or discounted condoms. They may be close to their expiry, have been damaged in transit by extreme temperatures or be counterfeit. Counterfeit condoms are condoms that are manufactured by unlicensed condom manufacturers, which means they may not have been tested electronically or be an approved grade of latex. Pay close attention to the branding and symbols on the boxes to make sure your condoms have been manufactured and tested to your satisfaction.

If you need to save money on condoms and other personal protective equipment (PPE - that's the technical term for dams, gloves, condoms, female condoms and other barriers we use during sexual activity) then the best way to do it is to buy in bulk. Online condom suppliers sell bulk amounts of condoms at a fraction of the price you pay for boxes of twelve in supermarkets or chemists. Most online retailers have condoms in boxes of 36 to 144 and stock a range of sizes, styles and brands.

Your local sex worker organisation might also sell bulk or discounted (but not old or damaged!) condoms. At Respect we sell condoms, lube, sponges, dams, condoms and gloves in amounts from single pieces to multiple boxes of 144.

If you need free condoms then sexual health clinics in most states and territories provide free condoms and lubricant - some even have different sizes, dams and female condoms too if you ask for them. Several sex worker organisations also supply free condoms and PPE to sex workers or can even post them to you.

So get out all your condoms and check their expiry dates and the way you're storing them. Make art from your old condoms, or perform sacrificial rituals with them - it's up to you!

Sex workers can contact or visit Respect at any of their offices to buy new condoms or for information, education and peer support.

*Respect Inc is a peer-based sex worker organisation in Queensland and should not be confused with 'Project Respect', a Victorian organisation that is not run by sex workers and is not supported by or associated with Respect Inc.*

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