I think National Condom Week was launched in 1996, my first year as a full time, paid employee working in sexual health. If not 96, it was 97 and generally condoms were even less of an everyday conversation than they are now, and far far away from how much of an everyday conversation they should be.
Over the last 5 years or so I have set a National Condom Week challenge to health professionals and all of us determined to empower young people and protect their sexual rights. The challenge is to say the word condoms in as many different contexts as possible, even where it does not make sense to do so. Whatever the question, condom is the answer. Befuddled faces and questions of why this answer can easily be explained when people know it is NCW.
So far I have had feedback that it has made teams of people laugh throughout the day, created useful conversations, and made others want to punch me. As a challenge it seems it is doing its job, and therefore it would be wrong not to issue the challenge again this year. So my challenge to you is: for at least one day through NCW get (discussions about) condoms into as many answers to questions and discussions as you can. And if you choose to accept the challenge do let me know of any interesting stories and experiences that come out of it either on this blog or via twitter @simonablake
Yesterday to mark the launch of National Condom Week, boy band JLS teamed up with Durex and MTV to visit some sexual health projects. Brook services in Salford was one of those, and teams of staff from Oldham, Wirral and Salford showed Marvin, Oritse, JB and Aston the type of education and clinical work staff and young peer educators do - from wearing the beer goggles, witnessing the rubber relay to finding out about sexually transmitted infections it was a really fun morning where the Brook teams showed off their creativity, skill and commitment to working with young people. I was incredibly proud of the team, all of whom told me they found the boys interested in them and what they do, interesting, easy to talk to and a real pleasure to spend time with.
And that has been true of every single experience of JLS throughout the last couple of years we have worked together - they are genuinely committed to, and interested in the issues - so when the journalist from the Manchester Evening News asked how important they are as role models for young people, I agreed they are undoubtedly so. And they are also role models for other adults - both celebrities and the 'rest of us'. In their groundbreaking support for young people's sexual health JLS are paving a way for other celebrities to take young people's sexual health seriously, and use their roles to champion the issue. At the same time they are helping break down the barriers that mean the average person on the street can be freed from embarrassment and shame and start talking about relationships, sex and sexuality so as a country we continue to get better and better at supporting children through puberty, adolescence and into adulthood.