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Condoms would seem to be the perfect low-tech, low-cost, easy-to-use method of contraception and protection against sexually transmitted diseases, but the actual results of condom use are disappointing. Here are some of the statistics:
- Condoms protect against unintended pregnancy, but not every time. About 2 percent of couples who use condoms "perfectly," as one study described it, get pregnant by the end of one year's use.
- In a study of condom use among gay men in Toronto, about 51 percent of all new cases of HIV resulted from condom failure. The couple used condoms, but the condoms failed to prevent transmission of the virus. It should be pointed out that only about 7/10 of 1 percent of gay couples that regularly used barrier protection shared HIV every year. Over a 30-year relationship, however, the rate of HIV transmission rises to about 20 percent even when couples use condoms.
- Condoms protect against HIV very well, but not perfectly. Among heterosexual couples in which one partner is HIV-positive and the other is HIV-negative, couples who use condoms every time they have sexual intercourse have an infection rate of about 1 in 600 people per year. Couples who don't use condoms every time they have sexual intercourse have an infection rate of about 1 in 10 people per year, even if the infected partner is on advanced Retroviral therapy. However, using condoms does not absolutely, positive guarantee the uninfected partner will stay HIV-negative.
- Among consistent users of condoms who have multiple partners in heterosexual relationships, condoms fail to protect against syphilis about 2 percent of the time. They fail to protect against gonorrhea about 3 percent of the time. Hepatitis C can be transmitted about 7 percent of the time, chlamydia about 12 percent of the time, and herpes about 13 percent of the time. Condoms greatly reduce the transmission of STD's, but don't eliminate them.