Condoms still best defence against sexually transmitted diseases: UNAIDS

Condoms still best defence against sexually transmitted diseases: UNAIDS

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Despite recent media reports questioning the effectiveness of condoms in preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, latex prophylactics remain the best defence against infection, the United Nations agencies on health and AIDS said today.

In a statement issued in Geneva, the Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization (WHO) said a recent review of available studies found that condoms - when used correctly and consistently - are effective for preventing HIV infection in women and men, and gonorrhoea in men.

The review also revealed that male condoms may be less effective in protecting against those infections that are transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, since the infected areas may not be covered by the condom. More research was needed to fill the gaps in currently available evidence, the report concluded.

According to UNAIDS, news items following the release of the report apparently confused the difference between "lack of evidence of effectiveness" and a "lack of effectiveness." Studies to establish the effectiveness of condoms against specific infections can be "very difficult to conduct in a scientifically valid and ethical manner," the agency said.

"The report underscores the effectiveness of condoms against HIV and nothing in it challenges WHO and the UNAIDS secretariat's conviction about the importance of condoms in HIV prevention programmes," the joint statement said. "On the contrary, unclear presentation of the report's conclusions by some commentators may distract from the vital effort to reduce risk of HIV infection through the use of condoms."

According to WHO and UNAIDS, it is imperative to continue promoting condoms for HIV prevention while undertaking studies on their effectiveness for prevention of other sexually transmitted infections.

The review was conducted by a panel convened by the United States National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.