Man buying condoms from a vending machine, December 2000.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
The earliest recorded use of a device resembling the modern condom was by the Ancient Egyptians, who used linen sheaths as protection against disease around 1000 BC. Gabrielle Fallopius conducted trials of linen sheaths in Italy in the 16th century with the aim of devising a method of preventing the spread of syphilis, but the use of the condom as a means of contraception was not appreciated until later. In the 1840s the first mas production of condoms made of vulcanised rubber began, and in the 1880s the first latex condoms were manufactured. By the 1990s, annual worldwide production of condoms exceeded 8.5 billion, with the authorities actively promoting their use for 'safe sex' to reduce the spead of HIV, the virus which causes AIDS.