If you’ve been practicing safe sex, you might expect that you’ve been completely protected from all common STDs and don’t have to worry about regular testing. However, can you still get an STD with a condom? And if so, is using a condom still worth it? Also, what other measures can you take to protect yourself and your partner further?
Understanding how condoms work—as well as their limitations—can make you a smarter sex partner and will ensure that you take all the necessary precautions to avoid getting an STD with a condom.
The good news is that condoms effectively prevent most sexually transmitted diseases as long as you use them correctly. Latex, the most common material in condoms, forms an almost impermeable barrier to sperm, viruses, and bacteria. In addition, condom manufacturers have to meet stringent guidelines regarding quality control and manufacturing practices.
Unfortunately, no single protection method is 100% effective. Condoms can tear or leak, which negates many of their protective properties, especially in terms of STDs. According to Planned Parenthood, condoms are around 85% effective at preventing pregnancies, and they likely have a similar real-world failure rate for many STDs.
In addition to user error, it’s essential to understand that various STDs follow different infection routes. Some STDs spread through bodily fluids such as saliva and semen. Others spread through skin-to-skin contact.
Condoms are great at protecting against STDs that infect via bodily fluid transmissions. These include chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis. The condom forms an impenetrable barrier that prevents fluid transmission from one sex partner to the other so that any pathogens found in fluids can’t reach the other person. As long as you use the condom correctly, your risk of catching one of these STDs is very slim.
The tricky part is that some STDs can infect others via skin-to-skin contact. Unless you’re wearing a full-body latex suit, you’ll experience skin-to-skin contact even while wearing a condom. For instance, if someone has pubic lice, the lice will still move across from one partner’s pubic hair to the other since there’s no real barrier between the two. That’s why getting a rapid STD test, even if you’re practicing safe sex with a condom, is essential for your and your partner’s sexual health.
Does the fact that you can get STDs even while wearing condoms mean you shouldn’t wear one? The firm answer is no. Condoms offer effective protection against STDs and can dramatically reduce your chances of getting them. However, it’s also vital to communicate with your partner if you experience any STD symptoms before engaging in sexual activity.
Yes. No protective device is 100% effective at stopping all bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. That said, your risk of getting an STD with condom use is significantly lower than with unprotected sex, so it’s still essential to use condoms during sexual intercourse or other activity.
Knowing which common STDs can be transmittable through condoms can help you make informed and safe decisions about your sexual health. If you suspect you may have one of these, consider Rapid STD Testing’s same-day STD testing kit or a home STD test to get definitive results before engaging in sexual intercourse again.
Condoms are especially effective at reducing the risk of getting a fluid-transmissible sexually transmitted disease, but they tend to be less effective at preventing skin-to-skin transmitted diseases. They often still provide protection, but their effectiveness will depend mainly on the size and location of the infected area.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus with over 100 strains. Some strains are asymptomatic, while others cause genital warts. The most dangerous strains can dramatically increase a woman’s risk of developing cervical cancer.
Genital warts can affect any part of the genital area, including parts that a condom can’t cover. Since the virus transmits via skin-to-skin contact, HPV is one of the common STDs transmitted through condoms. The good news is that the HPV vaccine is very effective at preventing HPV infections that lead to cancer, which is why most women should get the vaccine as soon as possible.
Many people can harbor the genital herpes virus without even knowing that they have it. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that almost 4.2 billion people worldwide carry the virus, which often manifests as painful blisters on mucous membranes around the mouth and genitals.
Two viruses are responsible for genital herpes: Herpes Simplex Virus 1 and Herpes Simplex Virus 2. Both can cause cold sores and genital lesions, though HSV-1 is more prone to causing cold sores, while HSV-2 is more responsible for genital herpes.
Typically, the virus is asymptomatic most of the time, with the occasional flare-up that causes painful, fluid-filled blisters. The virus transmits via skin abrasions or mucous membrane contact. It’s also present in saliva, semen, and vaginal secretions, making it the perfect candidate for an STD.
Genital herpes can affect any part of the genitals, including the scrotum, buttocks, penis, vulva, and vagina. Since it’s present in saliva and bodily fluids, unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex can cause genital herpes, making it one of the most common STDs in the world.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted bacterial disease that can have severe health consequences if not treated. The disease has four stages with different symptoms and manifestations, and the final stage includes symptoms such as paralysis, dementia, and organ failure.
Syphilis spreads via direct contact with an open sore during sexual activity. These sores develop in various places, including the penis, vagina, anus, the rectum, the lips, or the mouth. For this reason, any type of sexual activity, including oral sex, risks transmitting the disease.
The good news is that syphilis is relatively easily treatable with a course of antibiotics and, if detected early, doesn’t have any long-term consequences. It’s part of Rapid STD Testing’s 10-panel STD test that also tests for HSV-1 and HSV-2 and many other STIs.
Molluscum contagiosum is a viral disease that is often relatively mild. The disease’s main symptom is the appearance of small, raised legions that have a small pit in the center that makes them resemble mollusks, hence their name.
These lesions appear anywhere on the body, including the arms, abdomen, face, legs, and genital area, and tend to fade in six to seven months after appearing. The pox virus spreads through skin-to-skin contact and contaminated objects, such as clothing, towels, sponges, and even pool equipment and toys.
However, most cases of molluscum in adults are due to sexual activity, and since the lesions can occur anywhere, condom use may not prevent its spread if it doesn’t cover the lesion. The good news is that once the lesions disappear, the infection is over and can’t spread to others.
Pubic lice (“crabs”) are parasitic insects that live in pubic hair and feast on your blood. They can hop from hair to hair and spread from one person to another during intercourse or sexual activity. Since condoms don’t cover your entire pubic region, they’re remarkably ineffective at controlling the spread of crabs.
Condoms can fail to protect against STDs in two main ways: condom failure or the transmission path of the STD.
Condoms are more likely to fail due to user error. Loose condoms are more likely to slip and leak, leading to sharing of body fluids that can contain STDs. Condoms that are too tight are more likely to break or tear, leading to the same problem.
The other primary way to get an STD with condom use is if you or your partner has an STD that infects via skin-to-skin contact rather than through fluids. Since the condom doesn’t cover the whole genital area, you will still be at risk from skin-to-skin transmitted STDs.
The problem with these STDs is that they don’t need visible lesions to spread. Most people will avoid having sex if they have visible sores on their genitals. The problem is that you don’t need visible, weeping, gross lesions for them to spread, so you can be asymptomatic and still be infectious with the disease.
That’s why getting an STD from a one-night stand is such a high risk, especially if the individuals involved don’t get regular tests. Your partner (or you!) may look and feel completely healthy and disease-free while still able to spread diseases like genital warts or syphilis, despite proper condom use.
Incorrect condom use can dramatically increase your chance of getting multiple STDs at once since it puts you at risk of STDs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and many others. Proper condom use ensures that you and your partner stay safe during the entire experience.
Read on for some guidance to keep in mind about condoms.
Finding the right size condom is a learning experience, but it will drastically improve your and your partner’s safety. If a condom is too large, you risk leaks, while if it’s too small, you risk having it tear or break. By taking the time to explore different brands and sizes, you can be sure to get one that fits snugly and offers ultimate protection against STDs.
Store your condoms in a cool, dry place. Latex is susceptible to heat and friction. Leaving it in the sun or your wallet can wear it down and make it easier to tear or break. Also, check the expiry date since expired condoms can have microscopic leaks that still expose you to many STDs.
Don’t wait until the last minute to use the condom. Activities like oral sex and grinding without penetration can involve fluid exchange, so wearing a condom during all sexual activity is essential to protect against potential STDs. If any fluid swapping is going on, it’s time to wrap up.
Nobody wants to have or transmit an STD, but the truth is that STDs are more common than you think. While condoms should be an essential part of your arsenal against STDs, you can still get an STD with a condom. Regular testing can help keep you and your partners informed about your sexual health.
For more information, or to order any of our wide range of STD tests, call us at Rapid STD Testing at (866) 872-1888 today!