By Kim Schiavi

Central Michigan District Health Department

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Even though Valentine's Day is over, it is important to recognize another upcoming holiday.

National Condom Week is celebrated Sunday, Feb. 14 through Saturday, Feb. 21. Although light-hearted, this holiday sends a very important message about the significance of safer sex. Remember, that no matter how strong, love still needs distance.

The history of condoms dates back as far as 3,000 B.C. Throughout the years they have been fashioned from a variety of materials, including sheep or lamb intestines, oiled silk paper, tortoise shells and fine leather. The invention of latex in the 1920s led to the condoms we are now familiar with. Since then, condoms have evolved to include a wide range of sizes, textures, flavors and colors to suit all needs and desires. Female condoms as well as polyurethane condoms (for those with latex sensitivities), also are options.

Although the material of the condom has changed with time and technology, their purpose of preventing sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and unplanned pregnancies has remained the same. When used consistently and correctly, the use of condoms greatly reduces (but does not eliminate) the transmission of STDs and HIV. The only way to completely prevent STDs, HIV and unplanned pregnancy is abstinence. If that option is not for you, practicing safer sex through condom use is another means of protection.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Michigan reported 44,256 cases of chlamydia, 9,688 cases of gonorrhea and 421 cases of syphilis in 2014. An estimated 814 new cases of HIV were diagnosed in adolescents and adults in Michigan in 2013. With consistent and correct condom usage or abstinence, these diseases are mostly preventable. Even with condom use everyone who is sexually active should be screened regularly for STDs and HIV.

For more information on condoms and their proper use and/or STDs, contact one of the Central Michigan District Health Department locations and staff will be happy to assist you with any questions, concerns or testing that you may need. Always remember that all sex should be safer sex.

CMDHD offers STD screening and pregnancy tests as well as education and will be offering free condoms throughout National Condom Week.