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Do Condoms Protect Against STD's?

On Friday, July 20, 2001, the National Institutes of Health released a report on the efficacy of male latex condom use in preventing the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. This report resulted from a meeting of 28 experts convened at the NIH by the National Institute on Allergy & Infectious Diseases in conjunction with the US Centers for Disease Control. The report reiterates that condoms are highly effective in preventing transmission of HIV and can reduce the transmission of other sexually transmitted diseases. However, some stories in the media have incorrectly concluded that the NIH report found condoms to be ineffective and that there is 'no such thing as safer sex.' Public Health reemphasizes the importance and effectiveness of condoms, when used consistently and correctly, in protecting against transmission of HIV and other STD's.

  • The NIH report confirms that condoms are highly effective in preventing transmission of HIV, the cause of AIDS and in preventing transmission of gonorrhea from women to men.

  • Public Health - Seattle & King County, and experts around the country, are confident that male latex condoms, when properly used, provide substantial protection against transmission of the common bacterial sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydial infection, and prevent transmission of gonorrhea from men to women.

  • Condoms also are effective in preventing STD transmission through anal sex.

  • Condoms are less effective for STD's transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, such as human papillomavirus (HPV, the cause of genital warts and cervical cancer) and genital herpes, than for those diseases transmitted through body secretions, such as HIV, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. The absence of proof of efficacy against these STD's does not mean that condoms are not effective, only that research to date has not been adequate to show just how effective they are. Public Health strongly supports the call of NIH for more research in this area.

  • Since the NIH review was completed, new research has filled some of the gaps. In particular, a recent study from the University of Washington shows that condoms are very effective in preventing transmission of genital herpes, the most common genital ulcer disease, from men to women.

  • The most common skin-to-skin STD's are genital herpes and infection with HPV. Some strains of HPV cause genital warts and others cause cervical cancer and pre-cancerous changes. However, most such infections cause no symptoms and do not lead to cancer.

  • The fact that condoms are not 100 percent protective does not mean they have no value in prevention. Public Health recommends many safety measures that are less than 100 percent effective. For example, some people still are seriously injured when wearing seat belts and some people who do not smoke cigarettes still get lung or heart disease.

  • Sexual abstinence or sex with a single partner in a mutually monogamous, committed relationship remain the surest ways to prevent STD's, including HIV infection. Latex condoms should continue to be used consistently for other kinds of sexual partnerships.

The above was adapted from the following web site:



Disclaimer: The information contained herein is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as a substitute for the diagnosis or treatment of any health problem, whether it be physical or psychological. Consult your physician or a licensed medical professional for your particular medical question. assumes no responsibility for how this material is used. Note that updates its content frequently and, as some information may change, the information may become out of date. The findings and opinions of the author expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily state or reflect those of

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