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Condoms for sexually transmissible infection prevention: politics versus science

Adrian Mindel A and Shailendra Sawleshwarkar A B

A Sexually Transmitted Infections Research Centre, Marian Villa, Westmead Hospital and University of Sydney, Westmead, NSW 2145, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email:

Sexual Health 5(1) 1-8
Submitted: 12 July 2007  Accepted: 9 November 2007   Published: 22 February 2008


The present review assesses the protection that condoms offer against sexually transmissible infections (STI) and the impact that social, political and religious opinion in the USA has had in the past 8 years on promoting condoms for safer sex. Condoms offer protection against most STI. However, the degree of protection depends on correct and consistent use, the type of sexual activity and the biological characteristics of different infections. Cross-sectional and case-control studies and other observational data provide the majority of evidence for STI prevention. Condoms provide a high level of protection against those infections that are transmitted mainly via infected secretions, including HIV, gonorrhoea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis. Protection against those infections transmitted via skin and mucous membrane contact, including Herpes simplex virus infection and human papilloma virus, appears to be less. The Bush administration, driven by conservative political, social and religious elements in the USA, has mounted a concerted campaign to undermine the role of the condom in health-promotion activities in the USA and overseas by undervaluing and misrepresenting scientific data, and through a sustained and well-funded promotion of abstinence-only education. However, this has lead to considerable controversy and disillusionment with abstinence-only education, both at home and abroad, and there is now incontrovertible evidence that abstinence-only programs are ineffectual.

Additional keywords: abstinence-only education, sexually transmissible diseases and infections.


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