The 1960s saw the introduction of the oral contraceptive pill and the 1980s and 90s was the era of the condom. Now doctors are trying to convince young women and couples to use both methods simultaneously to maximise protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
Half of unplanned pregnancies result from forgotten pills, broken condoms or other misuse or failure of contraception, say family planning specialists.
And while HIV may not loom large in the minds of young women who have sex without a condom, they should be aware that there is a growing epidemic in Australia of chlamydia – an infection that is usually symptom-free and can quietly cause infertility by scarring women’s fallopian tubes.
"We see a number of young women who are protecting themselves quite well against pregnancy, but really not against [infections]," said Kathy McNamee, senior medical officer at Sexual Health & Family Planning Australia at yesterday’s launch of the program, called 2 to Tango.
Federal Government figures show the number of reported chlamydia infections rose 15per cent in 2005 to more than 41,000, compared with 2004. Gab Kovacs, a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Monash University, said these were only a small proportion of people infected, because most would not realise they had contracted the bacteria.
People successfully using condoms should still use the pill in addition to increase protection against pregnancy. It was a "fantastic medication. It regulates one’s periods and decreases menstrual pain".
Doctors say Australians’ pill use remains high despite a generation of women who had grown up using condoms.