PSA: Don’t reuse male condoms like this company did
In Vietnam, authorities busted a company that sold used condoms. Authorities allege that over 300,000 of the used, semen-filled condoms were found & confiscated in an apartment in South Vietnam.
Further, the apartment was converted into a makeshift condom recycling plant. The factory owner, Pham Thi Thanh Ngoc, received her goods from an unknown source. According to authorities, she would wash & dry the used male condoms and reshape them on a dildo “in unhygienic conditions” per the Vietnamese news outlet Tuoi Tre News.
The dangers of used condoms
In case you were asleep in sex ed, used condoms are double-bad. First, they have a higher chance of breaking, increasing the risk of unwanted pregnancy if used during vaginal penetration. Second, the risk of breaking also increases the risk of contracting an STD, as does wrapping your tool with a condom someone else used.
It doesn’t matter how “sterilized” or “washed” the condom was before, covering your member in a previously-owned condom is a surefire way to get an STD. Many STDs can’t be cleaned with soap and water alone. This is why surgical equipment is autoclaved between uses, not just scrubbed down.
Condom use in Vietnam
According to Tuoi Tre News, Vietnamese people use “over 500-600 million condoms” annually. Per a paper from The Guttemacher Institute, condom use in Vietnam rose through the 1970s & 1980s as government-funded family planning initiatives and educational programs were implemented.
The Guttemacher Insitute’s paper also pointed out some possible setbacks to obtaining any condoms in Vietnam. In the 1970s & 1980s, as Vietnam emerged from war and communism took hold, supply chains were less reliable (and discouraged to save government resources). Fewer Vietnamese people had heard of condoms, as IUDs were the most popular form of contraception.
STD protection was all but unheard of, and as the AIDS/HIV epidemic spread in Vietnam, condoms became essential to protect the population. While they were mainly publicly distributed through donors and government programs at first (per a UN report, all condoms in Vietnam were aid-granted until 2010), as Vietnam’s GDP increased, a market for high-end, quality condoms has emerged.
So what’s with the used condoms?
In 2014, the United Nations released a report about an epidemic of counterfeit condoms in Vietnam. Rather than being recycled condoms, these were low-quality condoms made with thinner rubber that wouldn’t pass inspection. Meaning, they were less durable and more likely to break.
“If the condoms available to users are not of high quality, even if people use them consistently and correctly they may become infected, or pass on infection to their partners,” Kristan Schoultz, the Vietnam country director for Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) explained in the report.
Worse, these low-quality condoms are often packaged as a reputable, high-quality brand, which could lead to a distrust of condoms after years of introducing & destigmatizing their use in Vietnam. “If people can’t trust the quality of condoms, then they will probably be less likely to use them,” Schoultz elaborated.
Culturally, condoms are often associated with sex workers or infidelity. However, increased male condom use helped decrease the stigma against sex workers and queer individuals living in Vietnam in the wake of AIDS.
Again, the report doesn’t mention counterfeit used condoms like the ones discovered on Saturday. However, the UN report and the existence of a used condom venture could point to an accessibility problem for high-quality condoms in Vietnam despite rising GDP and despite the existence of clinics and increasing public awareness.