Intended for healthcare professionals

Head To Head

Are condoms the answer to rising rates of non-HIV sexually transmitted infection? No

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 24 January 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:185
  1. Stephen J Genuis, associate clinical professor
  1. 1University of Alberta, 2935-66 Street, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6K 4C1
  1. sgenuis{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

Clinical considerations surrounding the science of sexuality and reproductive health have routinely been hijacked by philosophical perspectives, economic interests, religious bias, and sexual ideology. Rather than dialogue about evidence based outcomes and credible health policy, most talk about prevention of sexually transmitted infections involves debate over mutually exclusive perspectives on sexual morality.

Proponents of approaches encouraging safe sex (or safer sex) are accused of corrupting youth with amoral values, and opponents are perceived as zealots who disregard scientific fact in imposing their fanaticism on society. We need to look beyond vested interests to focus on clinical science and public health evidence.

A fundamental tenet of medicine is adherence to scientific fact and experiential evidence to develop treatments and programmes that maximise and sustain health. That evidence shows that effective population control of non-HIV sexually transmitted infections requires more than condom focused approaches.

Scope of protection

Firstly, condoms cannot be the definitive answer to sexually transmitted …

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