Select Committee on Health Written Evidence


Memorandum by SSL International plc (HA 7)


  SSL International plc is a multinational healthcare business, manufacturing well-known brands including the world's leading condom brand—Durex.

  Durex has been manufacturing condoms for 75 years and our research shows Durex is the world's most popular condom with four out of five people in the UK choosing it as their favoured brand.

  Durex would welcome the Health Committee's inquiry into "New developments in HIV/AIDS and sexual health policy."

  We see this as being a positive step in tackling the increase of STIs in the UK and raising awareness of the need to promote safer sex, especially among at risk groups.

  Durex is committed to reducing the incidence of STIs by encouraging condom usage through new and innovative products specially formulated for maximum pleasure and enjoyment. Each year we invest in excess of £12 million per annum in R&D and have an active programme of contact with universities and research establishments.

  For example, in response to consumer insight which indicated condoms were difficult to put on and uncomfortable, we carried out a scientific penis size survey of 3,000 men and used the research to develop the first anatomically shaped condom. This means that most Durex condoms are now in an "easy on" shape, making them easier and quicker to put on and more comfortable to wear.

  We have also produced the first commercially available ultra thin condom, Fetherlite, the first benzocaine condom, Performa and the first commercial polyurethane condom for men, Avanti.

  Durex also actively supports safer sex and AIDS awareness initiatives throughout the world.

  In the UK, we are an established supporter of government-led public health campaigns, supplying high quality condoms to ensure that health and population programmes are successful in reducing the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and reducing unplanned pregnancies.

  For example, we recently teamed up with APPG AIDS to raise awareness of the World AIDS Day message by sending condom cards to 600 MPs. The cards highlight increasing rates of HIV/AIDS in the UK and contain a Durex Extra Safe condom.

  We have also recently produced a new range of educational leaflets and posters giving the facts about condoms which our brand managers will be distributing to healthcare professionals.

  Our work in the international arena includes the annual Durex Global Sex Survey—which this year had 350,000 respondents—twice as many as 2003.

  The survey asks questions including what measures people take to protect themselves against STIs and HIV and at what age they lost their virginity.

  The research findings help to ensure we are fully aware of changing sexual attitudes, behaviour and lifestyles.

  Durex also involves itself in major social marketing projects such as Program H in Brazil. This was established with the aim of educating groups of young men—many of them prone to promiscuous sexual behaviour and violence towards women—to change their attitude and build awareness of their own health needs, particularly in relation to HIV/AIDS.


Response to Section 5

  5.1  Durex agrees the monitoring service of the HPA is excellent and the data provided is invaluable.

  5.2  Durex's own research into the sexual behaviour and attitudes of people in the UK complements the findings of the HPA. The Global Sex Survey has been running since 1994 and researches sexual attitudes and behaviours of people around the world. In 2004 more than 350,000 people from 41 countries took part. The portfolio of Global Sex Surveys demonstrates how sexual attitudes and behaviours have changed across the world, over the last 10 years. The 2004 survey revealed people in the UK lose their virginity at an average age of 16.7 years old. Previous Durex Global Sex Survey data reveal a trend to losing your virginity earlier, the average age in 2001 was 16.9 and in 2000 it was 17.1. It also reveals that 48% of people in the UK have had unprotected sex, Durex data shows this is a 14% increase on 2003 demonstrating a need for further education and 46% of respondents in the UK believe sex education should be taught by parents/guardians. The full results of the 2004 Global Sex survey can be seen as an appendix to this document.

Response to Section 16

  16.1  The Durex-run Innovation in Sexual Health Award invites healthcare professionals across the UK to submit details of their sexual health projects. Entries need to demonstrate their project is successful in targeting at risk groups, flexible, innovative and effective. The award scheme is run through Sexual Health News, Durex's quarterly publication for sexual health professionals.

  The winner of the 2004 competition was the MESMEN project based in Lichfield, Staffordshire. The campaign targeted men, encouraging them to have "sexual health MOTs" and used posters, postcards and the Haynes Sex Manual to promote the check-ups. Each year the winner receives £1,000 to further their project.

  If the Government was to endorse this award, examples of excellent practice could be further highlighted to a wider audience. This form of support would motivate healthcare professionals in educating young people about the benefits of good sexual health. Alternatively, the Government could initiate and fund a scheme that would replicate the winning projects across the country, as a result there would be a decrease in rates of STIs.

  16.2  National Condom Week is an annual initiative run by Durex to promote safer sex to all sexually active people, and 16-24 year olds in particular. The initiative has been successfully run in schools for the past eight years, and in 2005, Durex is looking to run a number of high profile activities to send the safer sex message to an even wider audience. As part of National Condom Week, Durex also works closely with healthcare professionals, educators, retailers and pharmacists to communicate the importance of good sexual heath and is supported by the media, celebrities and leading politicians. Active support of National Condom Week by the Government—either financially, or through endorsement, would allow us to reach an even greater audience.

  16.3  Durex is working closely with Nursing Times in 2005, to add a specific award for excellence in sexual health to the portfolio of Nursing Times Awards. This is the first year a sexual health award will be given, demonstrating further support and commitment to those working at grassroots level. We believe that this award will act as a positive support mechanism allowing nurses in the field of sexual health to achieve their objectives more effectively.

Response to Section 35

  35.1  Durex agrees the promotion of sexual health is an important method of helping to raise awareness of STIs and is effective in tackling sexual health problems.

  35.2  See 16.2.

  35.3  See 16.1.

  35.4  Durex produces a quarterly newsletter, "Sexual Health News", for sexual health professionals. It is distributed to a database of more than 3,500 healthcare professionals, key opinion formers and MPs throughout the UK to update them on Durex initiatives and news in the arena of sexual health.

  35.5  In January 2004 Durex launched, a website designed for sexual health professionals. It provides a facility for people to post details about their work and exchange ideas and information with other people in the field of sexual health. It also offers a best practice framework for professionals to learn from. The site was designed as part of Durex's ongoing investment in supporting sexual health professionals to help promote good practice across the UK to the sexual healthcare industry.

  With Government endorsement and funding, this site could be further developed to offer an extensive service to healthcare professionals and anyone working in the field of sexual health across the country to aid in their work. Durex believes the Government needs to invest heavily in support healthcare professionals at grass roots level and offers a good opportunity for this.

  35.6  Durex carries out sampling activity at selected events. In the past Durex has provided products to be distributed at Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds festivals, charity fundraising events, and the MOBO awards. To date, in 2004, Durex has given almost 250,000 condoms, including 80,000 at Glastonbury and 40,000 at the Oxegen Festival in Dublin.

  35.7  Throughout summer 2004, Durex worked with the Department of Health's "Sex Lottery" campaign to distribute 35,000 condoms in 10 popular holiday resorts, to promotes safer sex to young people. The condoms were distributed to 18-24 year olds through youth holiday company Escapades. A total of 30,000 door hangers were produced which said "Do not enter—Don't play the sex lottery" along with 50,000 Sex Lottery scratch cards.

Response to Section 37

  37.1  Durex agrees that sex education programmes are an essential way of helping to improve sexual health.

  37.2  See 16.2.

  37.3  Durex has produced an interactive sex education CD ROM as a resource for schools to support SRE programmes. It is distributed to teachers and healthcare professionals to educate young people about safer sex and includes information on sex education, contraception, STIs, HIV/AIDS and pregnancy and parenting. There is also a special sex and relationships quiz to assess the pupils' understanding of modules and identify any areas that need to be re-addressed.

Response to Section 39

  39.1  See 37.3.


  Durex is delighted the Health Committee has decided to undertake this inquiry into recent policy development surrounding HIV/AIDS and sexual health services, specifically with regard to progress to date in implementing the recommendations of the committee's 2003 inquiry into sexual health.

  Durex believes there are numerous examples of great practice happening across the UK at grassroots level. These schemes could be utilised to help the Government meet its targets of reducing rates of STIs from 2006. The Government could invest in these schemes, enabling them to be promoted nationwide.

  Durex is committed to helping to promote good sexual heath practice though its broad range of initiatives detailed above.

  As a result we would happy to share our experience with all relevant parties to work to improve the sexual health of the nation.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2005
Prepared 21 March 2005