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I recently read (on the CDC website) that there is no proven information that condoms do protect against HPV. Is that true?

This is an excellent question and you went to a great source. I also checked out the CDC website and I think I can make some clarifications that might be helpful.

First, the National Institute of Health (NIH) report did determine that condoms are effective in reducing HPV-associated diseases, including genital warts in men and cervical neoplasia (cervical cancer precursors) in women. Several other studies showed that male condom use reduces the risk of genital herpes and chlamydia.

Most HPV infections in men occur on parts of the penis that would be covered by a condom, so in these areas the risk for contracting an infection is very low because the size of HPV particles are large enough that they cannot permeate the condom. But, because the condom does not cover all areas that can be affected, such as the scrotum, groin area, base of the penis, and the anus these areas are at risk for coming in contact with the mucus or blood that contains the infection. And for women, HPV infection can occur on the outside of the vulva, which can touch the genital skin of a man using a condom.

In conclusion, the condom cannot protect against all areas in which the HPV infection can occur. This is a good reminder to always wear a condom, but more importantly to communicate with your partner about their sexual history so that you can make an educated decision about whether the risk is worth taking.

Tanya Villhauer, M.A.
Health Educator
Health Iowa/Student Health Service

CDC website-Then click on “Report to Congress: Prevention of Human Papillomavirus Infection"

Written 5/20/05


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