Intended for healthcare professionals

Head To Head

Are condoms the answer to rising rates of non-HIV sexually transmitted infections? Yes

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 24 January 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:184
  1. Markus J Steiner, senior researcher,
  2. Willard Cates, president, research
  1. 1Family Health International, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA
  1. Correspondence to: W Cates wcates{at}

    Consistent condom use can reduce the spread of HIV, and Markus Steiner and Willard Cates believe condoms are the answer to other sexually transmitted infections. But Stephen Genuis argues that a more comprehensive approach is needed

    Condoms can and should play a central role in halting the rising rates of sexually transmitted infection other than HIV. For people who are sexually active, condoms remain our best solution to reducing risks of acquiring sexually transmitted infections (if uninfected) or transmitting these infections (if infected). Strong evidence from laboratory studies and mounting clinical studies shows that condoms effectively reduce the risk of transmission. In addition, for specific populations, increased levels of condom use have been associated with decreases in reported sexually transmitted infections.

    Condoms work

    Condoms protect the wearer and his partner from infection by covering the penile glans and shaft, which are the major portals of entry and exit of sexually transmitted pathogens. Laboratory studies indicate that latex condoms are an effective physical barrier against passage of even the smallest sexually transmitted pathogens.1

    When placed on the penis before any genital contact and used throughout intercourse, the condom prevents direct contact with semen; genital lesions and subclinical viral shedding on the glans and shaft of the penis; and penile, vaginal, or anal discharges. Thus, condoms reduce the risk of infections that are …

    View Full Text

    Log in

    Log in through your institution


    * For online subscription