A pro-life activist from Donegal has branded the HSE’s new campaign encouraging young people to use condoms as being “very irresponsible”.
On Monday, the HSE launched its Think Contraception campaign which features the slogan ‘Relax - Johnny’s Got You Covered’ and a packet of condoms. The campaign involves TV sponsorships, on-street promotion, poster and digital advertising and social media to tell young people that “when it comes to risk of STIs or unplanned pregnancy - Johnny’s got you covered”.
Research commissioned by the HSE has shown that 20% of 18–25 year-olds did not report consistent use of contraception in the last year. The HSE says its campaign will encourage young men and women, the vast majority of whom have had sexual intercourse by the time they reach 25, to plan for, and consistently use condoms to protect against unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
Mary Stewart told the Donegal Democrat that, in her view, the campaign is “very irresponsible”.
“Condoms are not 100% reliable and this is something that is glossed over by the HSE. Condoms fail a certain percentage of the time, resulting in pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, young people very often have drink taken when they decide to have sex on impulse and may be careless in their use of condoms. Some STDs can be passed on through skin contact as well. The HSE campaign doesn’t convey any of these important facts and, by not doing so, is doing a disservice to our young people.”
Roisin Kavanagh, Chairperson of the Letterkenny Centre disagrees. “Donegal has very high rates for sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy and the HSE campaign is aimed at addressing that. No contraceptive is 100% effective but the HSE certainly encourages young adults to be responsible and to think about prevention. It also puts responsibility on young men, which is to be welcomed.”
Mary Stewart is also concerned that the campaign reinforces the idea that sex and relationships are something transient and casual. “Our young people are being sold a pup. They’re being told, that relationships built on friendship, love and respect don’t matter any more. The idea is ‘date and dump’ when the thrill is gone. No wonder there are so many break-ups.
“At the end of the day, a condom can’t heal a broken heart.
“We should be teaching our young people to be responsible for their health - physical, mental and emotional - and to be considerate of the health of the people they care about. “Having indiscriminate sex without thought for the consequences is something that is demeaning to our sense of selves. When we are careless with ourselves or let others be careless of our needs, we hurt ourselves.
“If we want our young people to grow into happy, healthy adults, they need to understand this. This HSE campaign doesn’t address that.