Italian author and famous lover Casanova said that the man who invented condoms was a good man, and he could not be more right. The history and use of condoms date back as far as 5 centuries ago in Europe in the year 1564. Back then, condoms were made out of linen, animal skin or animal intestine. It was not until 1839 when Charles Goodyear finally revolutionised condoms by utilising vulcanisation so latex condoms could be manufactured.
When applied correctly and used consistently, condoms are one of the most effective birth control methods. Condoms are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy. Preventing pregnancy is not the only function condoms serve. As decades go by, condoms gain immense popularity and are well received and used in many countries. These love gloves are also known to ward off STIs and STDs. However, nothing is without its flaws. Although condoms are powerful in preventing several sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B & hepatitis C, gonorrhea and chlamydia, they are not quite fruitful in fending off diseases such as herpes, syphilis and Human papillomavirus (HPV).
So, what is a 100% foolproof way to prevent transmission of STDs?
The only way to avert exposure to STIs and STDs is to completely abstain from all forms of sexual activities—vaginal, oral and anal sex. Using both male and female condoms can significantly reduce STD transmission although does not entirely eliminate the risk of contracting them.
How STDs/STIs spread
Condoms are potent because they are the only birth control method that offers protection against STIs and STDs. Nevertheless, you might be wondering how this contraceptive is still not immune to every kind of sexual disease. To understand this, we must first be familiar with how STIs spread.
STIs can spread through two ways: skin-to-skin contact or transference of bodily fluids and in some cases, both. Diseases such as Human papillomavirus (HPV), HIV/AIDS, herpes simplex virus (HSV) and syphilis can spread through skin-to-skin contact and bodily fluids, this is why even if you are wearing condom, it does not guarantee you will not be exposed to these STDs.
We also need to keep in mind that condoms, when applied correctly, still do not cover all parts of genital skin. To illustrate, someone who is suffering from herpes that extends to the testicles risks spreading the disease because testicles are parts that are not covered by condoms. And if those infected parts touch a person’s anus or vulva, virus transmission can take place.
To be perfectly clear, people who do not look like they have STIs (no visible signs of them) can actually have STIs that spread through skin-to-skin contact.
5 STDs condoms are not immune to
Buckle yourself up for some sex education here. Below are six STDs that cannot be prevented by using condoms:
Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease caused by two types of viruses: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). The most conspicuous sign of herpes is red sores spreading through the skin. However, not all people suffering from genital herpes show visible signs of the disease. If someone has a herpes lesion (sores) outbreak that spreads through the pelvic or groin area, transmission could happen because these areas are not covered by condoms. Abstaining from all kinds of sexual activities when you have an outbreak is the best option to take.
Human papillomavirus (HPV)
HPV is one of the most common STIs. In fact, this is the most common infection in the United States. The use of condoms is not significant in warding off HPV. Some HPV strains such as HPV 6 and 11 are low risk but 90% of the time cause genital warts. Getting the HPV vaccine can lower your chances of getting infected or infecting someone with genital warts. Some strains like HPV 16 and 18 are two types that cause cervical cancer and HPV-related cancers. Condoms can reduce the risk of cervical cancer, but there is no evidence that they are effective in averting particular HPV strains.
Syphilis happens due to a bacterial infection during a sexual contact. This disease usually starts with a painless sore that develops to a rash. The most severe case of syphilis is when internal organs are affected in the final stage. Syphilis sore is also referred to as a chancre. This disease can be treated with penicillin. Similar to genital herpes, depending on where the syphilis sore is situated, condoms are not 100% effective in averting people from this disease.
Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a poxvirus. Molluscum contagiosum is an STI that not many people have heard of. This might be because the disease does not lead to serious health problems and is easy to treat. The disease takes the form of painless, firm, red bumps on the skin. Although the condition is benign and painless, the bumps may itch. Molluscum spreads only through skin-to-skin contact, and for this reason, condoms become irrelevant in preventing contagion.
A protozoan parasite called trichomonas vaginalis is the culprit that causes trichomoniasis. Using male or female condoms will reduce but not fully eliminate the risks of contracting the disease. The symptoms of trich may vary and depend on the gender. Women may experience yellow or green vaginal discharge and itching as well as pain while urinating or having sex while men may secrete thin white discharge from the penis and experience soreness and swelling.
What you can do to minimize transmission of STDs
Every person who is sexually active always has a risk of getting STIs or STDs, and while condoms cannot always protect you from these diseases, that does not imply that there is nothing more you can do.
Go for regular STD testing to know your status
If you are sexually active or about to have a new partner, going for regular STD testing is imperative. If you want to cover all the bases and give yourself the best form of security, get tested for every STI to know your status for each and every one of them. This also means getting tested for anal and oral STIs.
Increase condom efficacy
Learn to pick condoms of the right size based on your measurement. Great sex means responsible sex. This is not the time to fool around and be lax about it because loose condoms will slip off and tight condoms might break. Storing condoms in a cool and dry place is also the right step to take. Squeezing condoms in your wallet is not advisable because of the friction and heat.
Consider taking HIV PrEP or HIV PEP
If you are sexually active and need extra protection, taking HIV PrEP is an option you can consider. HIV PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a medicine that people who don’t have HIV take to reduce the risk of contracting the virus, while HIV PEP is a medicine taken in emergency situations after a possible exposure to HIV within 72 hours.
Stick to a partner you can trust
Being picky when it comes to sex partners will save you from unwanted troubles. The saying “the more the merrier” is definitely something you should eschew when it comes to this matter, because when you are ‘getting around’ without carefully selecting your partner, you will be more at risk of inviting STDs.