Condoms. They are made of many different materials. They come in many colors and textures. They are meant to protect you against pregnancy and transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s). But how effective are they?
Condoms are a contraception method, or barrier, that can prevent pregnancy and the exchange of bodily fluids like blood, semen, and vaginal fluids, only when used properly. This is important to consider since the primary routes to STD transmission and pregnancy is the passage and exchange of these bodily fluids. While non-adequate research and misinformation in health classes and education programs has caused debate about the effectiveness of condoms, research continues to show that condoms are effective and one of the best methods available in helping the prevention of pregnancy and transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.
The question many have wondered is just how effective are condoms? Some facts to consider about latex condoms: 98 percent effective in preventing pregnancy when used consistently and correctly; the first-year effectiveness rate in preventing pregnancy among typical condom users on average is 86 percent. This includes pregnancies resulting from errors in condom use. Using a latex condom to prevent transmission of HIV is more than 10,000 times safer than not using a condom.
A study published in The Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes observed sero-discordant heterosexual couples and showed that only three out of 171 who consistently and correctly used condoms became HIV infected; eight out of 55 who used condoms inconsistently became HIV infected; and eight out of 79 who never used condoms became HIV infected.
A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine observed heterosexual couples where one was HIV-positive and the other was HIV-negative, for an average of 20 months. (These couples are referred to as sero-discordant.) Findings included: No sero-conversion occurred among the 124 couples who used latex condoms consistently and correctly for vaginal or anal intercourse; Ten percent of the HIV-negative partners (12 of 121) of couples became infected when condoms were used inconsistently for vaginal or anal intercourse. In contrast, 15 percent of HIV-negative partners became infected when condoms were not used.
Several studies have demonstrated that condoms can protect against the transmission of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis, and may protect against genital herpes and syphilis. Condoms can be expected to provide different levels of risk reduction for different STDs. There is no definitive study about condom effectiveness for all STDs. Definitive data are lacking on the degree of risk reduction that latex condoms provide for some STDs; for others, the evidence is considered inconclusive.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states, "It is important to note that the lack of data about the level of condom effectiveness indicates that more research is needed-not that latex condoms do not work."
Some interesting facts about the female condom include: The first-year effectiveness rate of preventing pregnancy among typical condom users averages about 79 percent for female (Reality®) condoms. This includes pregnancies resulting from errors in condom use. The female condom Reality® is estimated to reduce the risk of HIV infection for each act of intercourse by 97.1 percent when used consistently and correctly. Laboratory studies have shown Reality® to be an effective barrier to microorganisms including HIV and including a bacteriophage smaller than hepatitis B, the smallest virus known to cause an STD.
Here you have been presented with the effectiveness of condoms. There is much more to learn about condoms, such as proper use, proper handling, and alternatives to use in a pinch, and we shall look at them more in the future.
BellaOnline's Gay Lesbian Editor