The truth about condoms

SIECUS Rep. 1988 Nov-Dec;17(2):1-8.


PIP: At present, condoms represent the best means for couples who are at risk of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) to prevent infection. In addition to protecting against infection and pregnancy, condoms have the advantages of accessibility, low cost, and male involvement. Consistent condom use has been shown to reduce human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission from 82% to 17%. However, this study of heterosexual transmission of HIV found that 79% of the couples using condoms experienced breakage at least once in the 18-month study period and another 8% experienced at least 1 episode of leakage. The heterosexual partners of HIV-positive individuals were least likely to seroconvert if abstinence was practiced (none of 12). Of the 18 couples who used condoms consistently, 3 (17%) seroconverted during the 18 months. In the 17 couples who either used condoms erratically or did not use them at all, 14 (84%) became seropositive during the study period. Latex condoms, particularly in conjunction with spermicide, appear to be the best choice if prevention of infection is a priority. Condoms should be used by such individuals even if they are already using sterilization, oral contraceptives, or any other means of birth control to prevent pregnancy. In the US, condom use has increased from 12% in 1982 to 16% in 1986; in xonrear, 1% or less of married women of reproductive age in 36 of 66 developing countries surveyed in 1987 reported condom use. It is recommended that family planning programs and health agencies encourage more widespread condom use by making condoms available to clients free or at the lowest possible cost, offering clients sufficient quantities of condoms, instructing clients in their proper use, assisting clients in enlisting partner cooperation in condom use, and providing community education to overcome barriers to use of this method.

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome*
  • Condoms*
  • Contraception
  • Data Collection*
  • Disease
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic*
  • Family Planning Services
  • HIV Infections*
  • Health Planning*
  • Infections
  • Research
  • Sampling Studies
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases*
  • Virus Diseases