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|The Truth About Condoms
Condoms are a barrier method of contraception that, when used consistently and correctly, can prevent pregnancy by blocking the passage of semen into the vaginal canal. Condoms can also prevent the exchange of blood, semen, and vaginal secretions, which are the primary routes of STD transmission.
In recent years, as a result of misinformation and insufficient research, the efficacy of condoms, especially in terms of STD prevention, has been debated in many forums.
Research continues to show that condoms are one of the best methods of preventing unwanted pregnancy and are one of the only methods for sexually active individuals to protect themselves against STDs, including HIV.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates manufacturers who sell condoms in the United States. As a quality assurance step, condom manufacturers sample each lot of finished packaged condoms and examine them for holes using a water leak test. The FDA recognizes domestic and international standards that specify that the rate of sampled condoms failing the water leak test, for each manufactured lot of condoms, must be less than one in 400.
Manufacturers also test lots for physical properties using the air burst test and the tensile (strength) property test. In order to test condomsí ability to prevent the passage of viruses, FDA researchers developed a test using high concentrations of a laboratory created virus that is the same size as STD pathogens.
The FDA tested many different types of male condoms and showed that they are highly effective barriers to virus passage with a very small chance of leakage. Intact condoms (those that pass the water leak test) are essentially impermeable to particles the size of STD pathogens. Moreover, these studies show that fluid flow, not virus size, is the most important determinant of viral passage through a hole.
The male condom is a barrier method of contraception that is placed over the glans and shaft of the penis. Male condoms are available in latex, lambskin, and polyurethane. Condoms manufactured from latex are the most popular, and studies conducted on the ability of condoms to prevent the transmission of STDs and HIV most often involve latex condoms. Condoms manufactured from lambskin, also known as natural skin, or natural membrane, are made from the intestinal lining of lambs. While these condoms can prevent pregnancy, they contain small pores that may permit passage of some STDs, including HIV, the hepatitis B virus, and the herpes simplex virus.
Condoms manufactured from polyurethane are thinner and stronger than latex condoms, provide a less constricting fit, are more resistant to deterioration, and may enhance sensitivity. Polyurethane condoms are also recommended for those who have latex allergies. Polyurethane condoms have not been studied for their effectiveness in the prevention of STD transmission. In addition, condoms made of polyurethane are compatible with oil-based lubricants, unlike latex condoms which must be used with water-based lubricants.
In order to benefit from the protection that condoms provide, individuals must use them consistently and correctly.
This means they must use a condom with every act of sexual intercourse, from start to finish, including penile-vaginal
intercourse as well as oral and anal intercourse. In addition, individuals must understand how to properly use a
condom. Studies of hundreds of couples show that consistent condom use is possible when sexual partners have the
skills and motivation to use them.
Available under the brand name Reality, the female condom is made of polyurethane and provides protection against pregnancy and STDs, including HIV.22 It consists of a tube-like sheath with one flexible polyurethane ring at each end. One ring is placed inside the vaginal canal and is closed off by polyurethane, collecting the ejaculate. The other ring remains outside the vagina and the penis enters the vagina through this ring. The female condom is coated with a silicone-based lubricant. Additional lubricant can be added as necessary. The female and male condom should not be used together as they can adhere to each other, causing slippage or displacement.FACTS IN BRIEF
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