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Study provides striking contrast between two tests of condom effectiveness against sexually transmitted infections

Findings from, ‘Condom Effectiveness against non-viral sexually transmitted infections: a prospective study using daily diaries’ that was published in the November issue of Sexually Transmitted Infections, provides a striking contrast between two tests of male latex condom effectiveness against three common sexually transmitted infections (Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis).

Both tests were conducted under extremely rigorous conditions involving 960 intervals of 3-month "observation periods" when volunteers reported their sexual behaviors and condom use on a daily basis. The first test was based on consistent condom use (100% of all acts of penile-vaginal sex). In this test the protective value of condoms was not significant. The second test used a more refined measure of consistent condom use that included correct use. In this measure, volunteers were only counted as 100% users when they did not report condom use events that involved breakage, slippage, and incomplete condom use during the event, or re-using a condom from a past event. This second test suggested that the correct and consistent use of male latex condoms confers significant and substantial protection against these common STIs.

This contrast parallels the concepts of “typical use effectiveness” (first test) and “perfect use effectiveness” (second test) from contraceptive studies. The discrepancy between typical and perfect use in this study was dramatic, with perfect use conferring meaningful reduction in risk. The implication is that domestic global efforts to promote condom use should be augmented with efforts to promote their correct use.

The University of Kentucky Libraries has an electronic subscription to the Sexually Transmitted Infections and you can access the full journal article by clicking this link and searching for the journal title.