Condoms and Prevention of STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections)

Condoms are barrier devices used to protect against sexually transmitted diseases. A secondary benefit of condoms is pregnancy prevention. However, condoms should not be the only method of pregnancy prevention because condoms do break. The two types of condoms that are available are male condoms and female condoms. 

A male condom is a thin covering worn on the penis that acts as a barrier device. It is non-hormonal and is used during sexual intercourse to reduce the probability of sexually transmitted infection (STI) and pregnancy. With perfect use male condoms are 98% effective. However, with typical use, male condoms are only 82% effective.

A female, or internal, condom is a flexible pouch with a soft ring on each end that    also acts as a barrier device. It is inserted into the vagina before sexual intercourse and protects against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy. The female condom collects ejaculated semen and protects a wider area of the body than male condoms.  With perfect use female condoms are 95% effective. However, with typical use, the female condom is only 79% effective.

Condoms may be made of three types of materials: latex, natural (lamb skin, etc), and synthetic. Natural condoms (lamb skin, etc), although providing greater sensation during intercourse, do not prevent passage of viruses such as Hepatitis B, Herpes and HIV! Therefore, it is best to use latex condoms for STI prevention. Latex condoms prevent the passage of viruses and other STIs. If a lubricant is needed with latex condoms, it must be water-based, not oil-based. If either person has a latex sensitivity, synthetic condoms should be used, they have also been shown to protect against STIs.

 Consistent and proper use of latex condoms, is over 90% effective in preventing the transmission of the following diseases:  Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Trichomonas, Human Papillomavirus (HPV), Genital Herpes and Syphilis.

 In summary, both male and female condoms are safe, effective, and affordable options for STI prevention. Improper or inconsistent condom use can lead to infection with a sexually transmitted disease and/or pregnancy.  Knowing how to properly place or insert a condom is important for proper use.  For the highest effectiveness, condoms must be worn consistently and properly.

Kirstie Cunningham, MD, FACOG President, Metro Health and Wellness, LLC

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