This is the main weapon we've got against HIV by the moment, but how effective is it in stopping other STDs too? This is the topic of a recent debate in the British Medical Journal.
"For people who are sexually active, condoms remain our best solution to reducing risks of acquiring sexually transmitted infections (if uninfected) or transmitting these infections (if infected). Despite some inconsistencies in the evidence, studies show that condoms are an effective physical barrier against passage of even the smallest sexually transmitted pathogens," wrote Markus Steiner and Willard Cates of Family Health International.
A recent meta-analysis revealed that condoms really decrease the risk of gonorrhea and chlamydia in both men and women, but also of the genital herpes and human papillomavirus infection, if correctly employed.
Many are concerned that the condom use boosts unsafe sexual behavior, but a recent review has not confirmed this.
"Like any prevention tool (such as seat belts or airbags) condoms are not 100% effective," wrote the authors.
Still, people should know that the condom fulfills its mission integrated in the ABC strategy: abstinence, being faithful to one partner, and condom use.
Still, "a more comprehensive approach is needed. Condoms cannot be the definitive answer to sexually transmitted infection, because they provide insufficient protection against many common diseases. Intercourse generally involves skin to skin contact in the external genital area not covered by a condom. The main problem with condoms is that average people, particularly teenagers and young adults, do not use them consistently, regardless of knowledge or education," said Stephen Genuis from the University of Alberta.
"Numerous large studies where concerted efforts to promote use of condoms has consistently failed to control rates of sexually transmitted infection -- even in countries with advanced sex education programs like Canada, Sweden, and Switzerland."
Recent researches proved that changes in sexual behavior (less partners and casual sex, and less appeal to sex workers), rather than condom use, dropped the rate of STDs in countries like Thailand and Cambodia. About 70 % of the STDs around the world occur in teenagers and young adults.
"Yet innumerable adolescents saturated with condom focused sex education end up contracting sexually transmitted infections. Although factual information should be included in any discussion of sexually transmitted infections, narrow condom focused initiatives should be replaced with comprehensive evidence-based programs," said Genuis.