Refraining from having sexual intercourse with an infected partner is the best way to prevent transmission of HIV and other STDs. But for those who have sexual intercourse, latex condoms are highly effective when used consistently and correctly.
The correct and consistent use of latex condoms during sexual intercourse - vaginal, anal, or oral - can greatly reduce a personís risk of acquiring or transmitting STDs, including HIV infection. In fact, recent studies provide compelling evidence that latex condoms are highly effective in protecting against HIV infection when used for every act of intercourse.
This protection is most evident from studies of couples in which one member is infected with HIV and the other is not, i.e., "discordant couples." In a 2- year study of discordant couples in Europe, among 124 couples who reported consistent use of latex condoms, none of the uninfected partners became infected. In contrast, among the 121 couples who used condoms inconsistently, 12 (10 percent) of the uninfected partners became infected.
In another study, among a group of 134 discordant couples who did not use condoms at all or did not use them consistently, 16 partners (12 percent) became infected. This contrasts markedly with infections occurring in only 3 partners (2 percent) of the 171 couples in this study who reported consistently using condoms over the 2-year period.
Condoms must be used consistently and correctly to provide maximum protection. Consistent use means using a condom with each act of intercourse. Correct condom use includes all of the following steps:
Making Responsible Choices
In summary, sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection, are preventable. The effectiveness of responsible prevention strategies depends largely on the individual. Whatever strategy one chooses, its effectiveness will depend primarily on consistent adherence to that choice.