While condoms can dramatically reduce the risk of getting or transmitting STDs, they can’t guarantee 100% protection from sexually transmitted infections.
Here’s how it works:
First, a condom must be used correctly to provide protection. When it’s used incorrectly, slippage or breakage can occur.
STD transmission is a risk any time you engage in sexual activity—so to offer effective protection, a condom needs to be used every time you have sex (whether vaginal, oral, or anal).
In laboratory settings, the latex condom has been shown to provide a nearly “impermeable barrier” to particles that are the size of STD-causing pathogens. This means that it prevents the infectious agent from passing through the barrier, significantly reducing the risk of contracting or transmitting an STD.
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How STDs are transmitted
To understand what condoms protect against, it’s first helpful to understand how STDs are spread. Infections like HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis are commonly spread when infected secretions of the urethra or vagina contact mucosal surfaces, which include the male urethra, the vagina, or the cervix.
Infections typically associated with genital ulcers are often passed on through contact of one’s skin with the mucosal surfaces or infected skin (such as sores) of a partner who has the infection.
Now that we know how STDs are transmitted, here are some that you need to be worried about even if you, or your partner, strap a condom on.
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1. Genital herpes
Genital herpes is a viral STD that typically results in sores or lesions on the genitals, anus, or upper thighs.
So even if the genitals are covered with a condom, there are more ways you can contract this disease.
A case of either HSV-1 or HSV-2 is called genital herpes when it affects the genitals or the genital area. Since lesions or sores can occur on parts of the genital region that is exposed during condom use, they can be spread from partner to partner.
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Yes, syphilis is still around. Syphilis is a highly contagious bacterial infection that spreads through sexual contact, including oral, vaginal, and anal sex.
Syphilis sores occur at the infection site and can be contracted by a partner via skin-to-skin contact regardless of condom use.