Condoms are great for birth control and stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS and STD's. Poor countries with low education and high poverty rates face both of these problems. In these same countries, prostitution is a common way to earn a living. To cut back on unwanted pregnancies and infection rates, many governments of developing countries distribute free condoms. Complimentary contraceptives? Cool! Well, not according to the Catholic Church, which opposes all forms of “unnatural” birth control and advocates abstinence instead. Other criticisms of the free condom programs are that they will encourage people to have sex, especially young people. Others see the programs as misplacing public funds that could otherwise finance education programs. Another argument is that free condoms will be diverted, re-branded and sold overseas for a profit. Since the condoms are bought in huge quantities, low quality is another complaint. Lastly, some note the many alternative uses that people find to use condoms.
Necessity is the mother of invention. In impoverished countries, her round belly swells with possibilities for prophylactics. What do you get when you hand out free condoms to struggling people? Inspiration! Aside from preventing births and infections, some people are remarkably resourceful with rubbers.
- In tropical countries like Guatemala, the acrid smoke of burning rubber repels mosquitoes.
- Can't afford a water jug? The latex tubes make ideal carriers. Likewise, they can hold staples like dried beans, rice or powdered spices.
- Flat tire? A line of inflated condoms can substitute for an inner tube. Remember your helmet when you ride.
- Sell live fish inside latex lumens or make a hanging plant basket.
- Leaky roof? Patch it with cut-open condoms.
- Soldiers seeking to keep their weapons ready for action cover gun and tank barrels with condoms to block moisture and dust. The thin, impermeable membranes form a perfect temporary seal that can be removed at the pull of a trigger.
- Latex is tough and durable, so condoms can be cut into strips and twisted together for cordage or bungee cords to strap luggage to the backs of motorcycles, bicycles or pack animals. Keep your pants on. An elastic cord of twisted condoms make a durable belt.
- What's that in your hair? Slice a condom axially and make rubber bands to hold braids together.
- Get creative! The elastic latex tubes can also be cut into strips and woven into decorative screens, or inflated as colorful balloons. A woven latex meshwork makes a great backing for a chair, or can form a comfortable bed platform. If you have enough help, you might put a trampoline together with the stretchy elastic cords!
- Condoms can be a fisherman's friend. Keep your nets afloat with buoys made of inflated and tied-off condoms.
While some find these alternatives as wasteful misuse of handouts, the rest go towards preventing unwanted pregnancies and life-threatening diseases. Besides, how cool would it be to spend a comfortable night on a bed of woven condoms? "We slept together on that bed for the first time and used more than a hundred condoms. We're still using them." Sweet dreams!
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