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Condoms
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This forum is limited to prevention of HIV and to safe sex in general. All questions will be answered by H. Hunter Handsfield, M.D. or Edward W Hook, MD.

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Condoms

The Today show had a doctor on this morning during the "Womens' Health" segment of the show who said that condoms were only 80% effective in preventing HIV.  I am not female, but I have had sex with a number of women, mostly sex workers at "massage" establishments.  I have always used a condom and assumed I was being safe during intercourse.  There have been a couple of times when I recieved oral sex without a condom.  Now, I'm not so sure and a little concerned about those statistics.  Can you please tell me what my risk is?  Do I need to be tested for HIV?

Thanks for your response in advance.
Tags: Pregnancy
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There is a difference between theoretical efficacy and what is called "use effectiveness".  The 80% figure is the latter.  What it means is that, other things being equal, people at risk for HIV who report consistent condom use are 80% less likely to be infected someday.  But that takes into account forgetfulness, broken condoms, and all the other things that can go wrong with reliance on condoms.  The true effectiveness of a properly used condom for vaginal sex, without condom breakage, is 100% or close to it.  (The figures for pregnancy protection are about the same, actually not quite as good:  about 95% protection against pregnancy for each episode of proper, but only 70-80% protection against pregnancy over the long run in the general population.)

Receiving unprotected fellatio is a near-zero risk event.

So all in all, your risk is low.  But most non-monogamous sexually active people ought to be be tested periodically for HIV, such as once a year.  You might consider it.

Best wishes--  HHH, MD
4 Comments
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Avatar_n_tn
I had this question a couple of weeks ago.  If the condom is used properly and doesn't break, then you are home free. The doctor will confirm this.
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Avatar_n_tn
what are the condom success rates for anal sex?
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Avatar_n_tn
Im sorry but if a condom is used correctly and doesnt break its 100%.  Any stories of someone that used a condom correctly and got infected are totally misleading.  There are gobs of + - couples that pull of a normal sex life.  If condoms had anywhere near a 20 percent failier rate we'd know about it.  Use condoms everytime you have sex and you wont have to worry.  Don't and you throw the dice.  Simple.

I've read that even condom breaks are low risk especially for the insertive partner.
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