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Can condoms prevent all STIs and STDs?

Wearing a condom protects you from most sexually transmitted diseases and infections, but not all of them!
Condom preventing STI
Condoms are your safest bet when it comes to protecting yourself from STIs and STDs, provided you use it correctly.
Anjuri Nayar Singh Published: 22 Oct 2023, 23:00 pm IST
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While using condoms might be at the top of a safe sex tips list, it might not be a hundred percent effective when it comes to sexually transmitted infections and sexually transmitted diseases. According to the World Health Organization, more than one million sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are acquired every day worldwide, and most of these showcase no symptoms. The statistics also show that each year, nearly 374 million new infections are there, with one out of four being curable STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and trichomoniasis.
STI and STDs are infections and diseases that are passed on from one person to another through sexual contact. A condom might protect against most of these, but it definitely does not protect you entirely. Let us find out the STIs and STDs that condoms do not prevent.

Health Shots spoke to Dr Shwetha S Kamath, Consultant – Obstetrics & Gynecology, BirthRight by Rainbow Children’s Hospital, Bengaluru, to understand the role of condoms in protection from STIs and STDs effectively.

Can a condom stop all STIs and STDs?

Condoms are effective in reducing the risk of catching most of these infections. “Condoms are highly effective when used correctly, reducing the risk of most STIs, including HIV, gonorrhea, and chlamydia, by creating a barrier between the sexual fluids of partners,” says Dr Kamath.

A study published in the National Library of Medicine says that condoms are effective in providing 90 percent protection against HIV, Hepatitis B virus and N.Gonorrhoea. Another study, also published in National Library of Medicine, also suggested that condoms can help protect women against trichomoniasis.
However, skin-to-skin infections cannot be prevented by use of a condom. Dr Kamath says, “Some STIs and STDs, such as herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV), genital warts, syphilis and mpox which can be spread from skin-to-skin contact can still be transmitted despite condom use due to the nature of their spread through skin-to-skin contact.”

For instance, during a herpes outbreak on the testicles, the virus could be transmitted if these areas come into contact with a partner’s vulva or anus despite condom use, Dr Kamath explains.

Condom preventing STDs and STIs
Using condoms correctly includes using a new one every time you have sex and disposing it off properly, among other things.

How to wear a condom correctly?

Condoms are your strongest bet. Condoms create a barrier and ensures that no bodily fluids touch the vagina or rectum. If you expect your condom to protect you from not only STIs and STDs, but also pregnancy, wearing it the right way is your first step.

  • Checking the expiration date and use a new condom each time you have sex.
  • Wear the condom before any genital contact.
  • Be careful not to tear it. Also, using lubrication can reduce the risk of breakage.
  • Roll it on the right way. In case you realise you have the condom on the wrong way, discard it, and use a new one.
  • Make sure that the condom is worn from start to end of intercourse.
  • Discard the condom properly as it has bodily fluids.Also read: 7 condom checks you must do for safe sex

How to avoid STIs and STDs?

Not having sex is the only way to be 100 percent sure of not catching an STD or an STI. But that isn’t possible, right? Here are some tips to avoid sexually transmitted infections and diseases.

  • Use condoms: While they might not be a 100 percent affective, they do prevent STIs and STDs to a huge extent. Latex condoms are best and don’t have high breakage rates.
  • Limit the number of sexual partners: A monogamous sexual relationship is your best bet when it comes to preventing both STIs and STDs. Having sex with multiple partners puts you at a very high risk.
  • Undergo regular STI testing: If you are sexually active, then this is a must. This also helps in further spreading the infection or the disease. Adhering to HPV vaccination protocols and maintaining regular appointments with a gynaecologist are important steps of a comprehensive preventive healthcare routine.
  • Open communication: Being honest and open with partners about your sexual health is crucial.

What to do if you get an STI or STD?

If there is a suspicion of an STI or STD, one should promptly consult a healthcare provider for testing and treatment. Dr Kamath says, “Early symptoms may include unusual discharge, sores, or pain during urination, perineal rashes, persistent itching, period irregularities, pain in the lower abdomen, and discomfort during intercourse. Seeking immediate medical attention is essential to prevent complications and further transmission.”

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About the Author

Anjuri Nayar Singh has over 12 years of experience in writing for various topics including lifestyle, films, television and OTT. She also writes on art and culture, education and human interest stories. ...Read More

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