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History of Condom

The oldest reference to condoms which are made up of oiled silk papers dates back to 1000 BC. The remnant images from Egyptian civilization demonstrate a kind of protection on the tip of the male penis. Paintings on caves also suggest the use of condoms. The use of condoms in Europe starts in the 16th century. In 16th-century Italy, anatomist and physician Gabriele Falloppio wrote a treatise on syphilis. The earliest documented strain of syphilis, first appearing in Europe in a 1490s outbreak, caused severe symptoms and often death within a few months of contracting the disease. Falloppio’s treatise is the earliest uncontested description of condom use: it describes linen sheaths soaked in a chemical solution and allowed to dry before use. The clothes he described were sized to cover the glans of the penis and were held on with a ribbon. In addition, condoms during the Renaissance were made out of intestines and bladder, but they were expensive and hard to reach; hence, each condom had been used several times. In 1839, Charles Goodyear discovered a way of processing natural rubber, which is too stiff when cold and too soft when warm, in such a way as to make it elastic. This proved to have advantages for the manufacture of condoms; unlike the sheep’s gut condoms, they could stretch and did not tear quickly when used; therefore, manufacturing rubber condoms started a whole new era in the contraception concept.

Latex, rubber suspended in water, was invented in 1920. Latex condoms performed better for the consumer: they were stronger and thinner than rubber condoms and had a shelf life of five years (compared to three months for rubber). More importantly, they were used once due to their cheapness. The introduction of the pill in the 1960s was associated with a decline in condom use. However, after it was discovered in the early 1980s that AIDS can be a sexually transmitted infection, the use of condoms was encouraged to prevent transmission of HIV; consequently, its sale went up again.

Due to the fact that latex must be used fresh, most condom factories are established in Malaysia, Thailand, or other tropical countries which have direct access to latex.

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