Male Latex Condoms

March 14, 2009 by admin 

Male Latex Condoms and Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Consistent and correct use of male latex condoms can reduce (though not eliminate) the risk of STD transmission. To achieve the maximum protective effect, condoms must be used both consistently and correctly. Inconsistent use can lead to STD acquisition because transmission can occur with a single act of intercourse with an infected partner. Similarly, if condoms are not used correctly, the protective effect may be diminished even when they are used consistently. The most reliable ways to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), are to abstain from sexual activity or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner. However, many infected persons may be unaware of their infections because STDs are often asymptomatic or unrecognized.

This fact sheet presents evidence concerning the male latex condom and the prevention of STDs, including HIV, based on information about how different STDs are transmitted, the physical properties of condoms, the anatomic coverage or protection that condoms provide, and epidemiologic studies assessing condom use and STD risk. This fact sheet updates previous CDC fact sheets on male condom effectiveness for STD prevention by incorporating additional evidence-based findings from published epidemiologic studies.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Including HIV Infection

There are two primary ways that STDs are transmitted. Some diseases, such as HIV infection, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis, are transmitted when infected urethral or vaginal secretions contact mucosal surfaces (such as the male urethra, the vagina, or cervix). In contrast, genital ulcer diseases (such as genital herpes, syphilis, and chancroid) and human papillomavirus (HPV) infection are primarily transmitted through contact with infected skin or mucosal surfaces.

Laboratory studies have demonstrated that latex condoms provide an essentially impermeable barrier to particles the size of STD pathogens.

Theoretical and empirical basis for protection. Condoms can be expected to provide different levels of protection for various STDs, depending on differences in how the diseases are transmitted. Condoms block transmission and acquisition of STDs by preventing contact between the condom wearer’s penis and a sex partner’s skin, mucosa, and genital secretions.  A greater level of protection is provided for the diseases transmitted by genital secretions.  A lesser degree of protection is provided for genital ulcer diseases or HPV because these infections also may be transmitted by exposure to areas (e.g., infected skin or mucosal surfaces) that are not covered or protected by the condom.

Epidemiologic studies seek to measure the protective effect of condoms by comparing risk of STD transmission among condom users with nonusers who are engaging in sexual intercourse.  Accurately estimating the effectiveness of condoms for prevention of STDs, however, is methodologically challenging. Well-designed studies address key factors such as the extent to which condom use has been consistent and correct and whether infection identified is incident (i.e., new) or prevalent (i.e. pre-existing). Of particular importance, the study design should assure that the population being evaluated has documented exposure to the STD of interest during the period that condom use is being assessed. Although consistent and correct use of condoms is inherently difficult to measure, because such studies would involve observations of private behaviors, several published studies have demonstrated that failure to measure these factors properly tends to result in underestimation of condom effectiveness.

Epidemiologic studies provide useful information regarding the magnitude of STD risk reduction associated with condom use.  Extensive literature review confirms that the best epidemiologic studies of condom effectiveness address HIV infection.  Numerous studies of discordant couples (where only one partner is infected) have shown consistent use of latex condoms to be highly effective for preventing sexually acquired HIV infection. Similarly, studies have shown that condom use reduces the risk of other STDs. However, the overall strength of the evidence regarding the effectiveness of condoms in reducing the risk of other STDs is not at the level of that for HIV, primarily because fewer methodologically sound and well-designed studies have been completed that address other STDs. Critical reviews of all studies, with both positive and negative findings (referenced here) point to the limitations in study design in some studies which result in underestimation of condom effectiveness; therefore, the true protective effect is likely to be greater than the effect observed.

Overall, the preponderance of available epidemiologic studies have found that when used consistently and correctly, condoms are highly effective in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV infection and reduce the risk of other STDs.


Feel free to leave a comment...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

Security Code: