Don't believe the hype that condoms are foolproof. They are not for a variety of reasons. But, even assuming that a couple uses one property, there are still risks associated with sexual intercourse. Unfortunately, even very credible websites offer conflicting guidance.
Let's compare a sampling of what some of these websites post.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
You will read the following:
- "Laboratory studies have shown that latex condoms provide an effective barrier against even the smallest STD pathogens."
Isn't this encouraging? Assuming that you use them effectively, condoms are foolproof. Right? Wrong. Keep reading from the CDC.
- "Condoms can be expected to provide different levels of protection for various STDs, depending on differences in how the diseases or infections are transmitted. Male condoms may not cover all infected areas or areas that could become infected. Thus, they are likely to provide greater protection against STDs that are transmitted only by genital fluids (STDs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, and HIV infection) than against infections that are transmitted primarily by skin-to-skin contact, which may or may not infect areas covered by a condom (STDs such as genital herpes, human papillomavirus [HPV] infection, syphilis, and chancroid)."
(Throughout this post, I have emphasized certain key phrases with bold typeface.)
Sexuality and U:
- "Condoms are 97% effective, and they protect against most STIs if used consistently and correctly. Condoms are the only contraception that can prevent STIs."
- "Condoms are your best protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). They stop bacteria and viruses that may be present in your partner’s genital fluid from infecting your own genitals, anal area, or mouth. They also protect against unwanted pregnancy. For a lot of sexually active people, they’re about as good as contraception gets."
Depending on your mindset, you may think "so far so good." Again, keep reading from their site.
- "Condoms ... do not protect against two of the most common: human papillomavirus (HPV) and Hepatitis B."
- "Some forms of HPV cause only harmless skin warts, others can lead to genital warts, and still others can cause cervical cancer."
- "Hepatitis B virus can be passed along through semen or blood, and more rarely from saliva or vaginal secretions. The virus has to enter your bloodstream to cause disease."
Even proper condom use does not protect against the potential of developing cervical cancer!
Here is a very misleading statement:
- "Condoms are great at preventing both pregnancy and STDs. If you follow the instructions and use them every time you have vaginal, anal, and oral sex, there's very little chance of pregnancy and your chance of getting or giving an STD is much lower."
What does "your chance of getting or giving an STD is much lower" mean? Much lower than the very little chance of getting pregnant? Or maybe, much lower than not using any barrier method? Is this a function of proper condom usage or the luck of the draw? Planned Parenthood then makes this statement:
- "One condom used correctly is all the protection you need."
Wow! Where do they mention the risks of HPV, Hepatitis B, etc.?
A flyer from the makers of Trojan Brand Condoms simply says:
- "Latex condoms form an impermeable barrier to sperm and STI pathogens"
That sure sounds safe. No conflict of interest there.
Another document from Trojan gives a lot of very interesting information about condom manufacturing and safety. You have to go to page 61 to find this footnote:
- "Condoms may provide less protection against skin-to-skin diseases, because coverage of an entire infected area may not be complete"
Where does the risk of contracting an STD hold? According to the CDC Fact Sheet:
- "Many cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis continue to go undiagnosed and unreported, and data on several additional STDs — such as human papillomavirus, herpes simplex virus, and trichomoniasis — are not routinely reported to CDC. As a result, the annual surveillance report captures only a fraction of the true burden of STDs in America. However, it provides important insights into the scope, distribution, and trends in STD diagnoses in the country."
- "It is estimated that undiagnosed STDs cause infertility in more than 20,000 women each year."
- "Rates of syphilis are increasing at an alarming rate (19 percent in 2015). While rates have increased among both men and women, men account for more than 90 percent of all primary and secondary syphilis cases." - Remember that syphilis may not be prevented via condom use.
So, what is the takeaway of condom usage? You should really know who you are having sex with. And, that means that trust is key. Not misplaced trust. Real trust. Get tested. Show that you care enough for your partner to protect them. Ensure with a physician that both of you are clean of STDs.
Unfortunately, spouses are sometimes traumatized to learn from the appearance of symptoms of an STD that their partner has not been faithful. Obviously, the level of commitment expected in a new relationship should go without saying for those still married. Protect and honor each other. Marital issues can be discussed and worked on. Or, even if the marriage needs to be ended, don't hurt each other.
Check out my other post on painful intercourse for related tips.