More About Latex Condoms
Latex condoms, when used consistently and
correctly, are highly effective in preventing transmission of HIV, the
virus that causes AIDS.*
Using a latex condom to prevent transmission of
HIV is more than 10,000 times safer than not using a condom.
A study published in The New England Journal of
Medicine observed heterosexual couples where one was HIV-positive and
the other was HIV-negative, for an average of 20 months. (These couples
are referred to as sero-discordant.) Findings included:
No sero-conversion occurred among the 124 couples
who used latex condoms consistently and correctly for vaginal or anal
Ten percent of the HIV-negative partners (12 of
121) of couples became infected when condoms were used inconsistently
for vaginal or anal intercourse. In contrast, 15 percent of HIV-negative
partners became infected when condoms were not used.
A study published in The Journal of Acquired
Immune Deficiency Syndromes observed sero-discordant heterosexual
couples and showed that only three out of 171 who consistently and
correctly used condoms became HIV infected; eight out of 55 who used
condoms inconsistently became HIV infected; and eight out of 79 who
never used condoms became HIV infected.
In the past, public health experts
recommended using condoms combined with Nonoxynol-9 (N-9), a spermicide,
for increased protection against pregnancy, HIV, and STD's. Two recent
studies, however, call into question the effectiveness and safety of N-9.
A study published by UNAIDS found that N-9
used without condoms was ineffective against HIV transmission. This study
actually showed some evidence that N-9 increased the risk of
Researchers note that this study was
conducted among commercial sex workers in Africa who are at increased risk
and used a N-9 gel on a frequent basis. The adverse affects might not be
seen at the same level among women who are using N-9 less frequently or in
a different formulation.
As a result of this study, however, the CDC
concluded that "given that N-9 has been proven ineffective against HIV
transmission, the possibility of risk, with no benefit, indicates that N-9
should not be recommended as an effective means of HIV-prevention."
A similar study published in the Journal of
the American Medical Association found that N-9, when used with condoms,
did not protect women from the bacteria that causes gonorrhea and
chlamydial infection any better than condoms used alone.
*. F. Carey, et al., "Effectiveness of
Latex Condoms As a Barrier to Human Immunodeficiency Virus-sized Particles
under the Conditions of Simulated Use," Sexually Transmitted Diseases,
July/August 1992, vol. 19, no. 4, p. 230.