Here’s a look at the NIH condom review’s findings

Safe sex might be called safer sex’

A National Institutes of Health (NIH) review of 138 peer-reviewed papers studying the effectiveness of condoms in preventing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) has reached the following conclusions:1

HIV: There is ample evidence in published data to demonstrate that latex condoms are significantly effective in reducing the risk of transmission of HIV through sexual intercourse. Consistent condom use decreased the risk of HIV/AIDS transmission by about 85%.

Gonorrhea: Several studies show a protective effect of condoms for men in preventing infection with gonorrhea, but there is not adequate epidemiological literature to assess condoms’ protection for women.

Chlamydia: One study reviewed by the NIH panel showed a protective effect of condoms against female-to-male transmission of chlamydia, but other studies were inconclusive or showed no or partial protection. No conclusion about the effectiveness of consistent condom use in preventing chlamydia infection can be drawn from the available data.

Trichomoniasis: A limited study showed a 30% protective effect for women against trichomoniasis infection, but there is a paucity of epidemiological studies on this topic, and no accurate assessment of the ability of condoms to reduce the risk of trichomoniasis can be made.

Genital herpes: No conclusions could be drawn from the studies of the effectiveness of condoms in preventing genital herpes because of limitations in epidemiological study designs and the lack of primary outcome measurements.

Cancroid infection: Epidemiological studies suggest an association between condom use and the reduction in risk of cancroid infection, but there is a lack of microbiological confirmation, so no conclusions could be drawn.

Syphilis: Most studies suggest a protective effect in the use of condoms to prevent syphilis infection, but the studies reviewed had design limitations, so the panel was unable to say conclusively that condoms are effective against this STD.

Human papillomavirus (HPV): Interpretation of existing literature was difficult because there are conflicting reports on whether condom use can prevent HPV infection or HPV-associated diseases. Also, most of the studies did not obtain sufficient information on condom use to allow careful evaluation of the association between correct condom use without breakage and HPV infection.


1. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services. "Workshop Summary: Scientific Evidence on Condom Effectiveness for Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Prevention." Herndon, VA; July 20, 2001:1-27.