- Last Updated on 04 December 2012
A condom is a sheath that is worn either over the penis (male condom) or inside the vagina (female condom) during sexual intercourse, for the purpose of preventing pregnancy or protecting against sexually transmitted infections.
Condoms, when used correctly and consistently, are highly effective in preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). A large body of scientific evidence shows that male latex condoms have an 80% or greater protective effect against the sexual transmission of HIV and other STIs.
Condoms are a key component of comprehensive HIV prevention.
A combination of approaches to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV including correct and consistent condom use, reduction in the number of sexual partners, HIV testing and counselling, delaying sexual debut, treatment for STIs, and male circumcision should be supported as a package.
Global policy standards, the WHO, and other UN agencies working on HIV/AIDS prevention support countries in condom procurement, quality assurance, promotion, and distribution.
The male condom is currently the only effective, widely available HIV/STD prevention method. Access to condoms is therefore essential to effective preventive behaviour during sexual intercourse, as are water-based lubricants, which decrease chances of condom breakage. Social marketing of condoms and distribution of condoms to the targeted population through multiple approaches – free, targeted distribution, community-based distribution programmes, health facilities and other commercial outlets such as pharmacies and village stores – which work complementarily to achieve a maximum availability of condoms.
In theory, condoms should be given free of charge to highly vulnerable populations. Overlapping risk behaviours – commercial sex work (CSW) and injection drug use – increase the risk of HIV infection and amplify the potential spread of the virus in communities.
Interventions with CSWs who are also injection drug users (IDUs) require the simultaneous implementation of prevention strategies from two separate disciplines: harm reduction for IDUs and sexual transmission reduction, using condoms, behaviour change, and STI care. Interventions are further complicated by the fact that while many women IDUs may engage in commercial sex for income, they do not necessarily identify themselves as CSWs, and therefore would not be easily accessed by CSW intervention projects.
Use of the male condom depends primarily upon the cooperation of the male sex partner, meaning that raising awareness around the topic is crucial.
Sources: WHO, EHRN