What STD Can You Get Even With a Condom?

March 21, 2024
Avatar for Jyoti Kinghorn, PhDJyoti Kinghorn, PhD
Condoms can prevent STDs

Latex condoms when used correctly and consistently can sharply reduce the risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). They are the only methods of birth control that have a significant effect on preventing STDs. However, they don’t always protect against all STDs.

STDs you can still get when using condoms correctly

 

Herpes

Herpes, caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) is a common STD that can cause painful skin lesions such as blisters and ulcers. Infection with HSV is incurable and the virus stays within the infected person’s body for life. During flare-ups, the virus comes to the top of the skin and causes lesions. Lesions usually occur in the genital area but can also occur on the mouth. Bare skin coming in contact with the lesions can transmit the virus. Even when the lesions are not visible, there still may be enough virus on the skin to transmit the infection to another person.
Contact with the lesions on the penis or inside the vagina can be prevented by correctly using either male or female condoms. Still, there may be lesions outside of these covered areas that can transmit herpes.

Syphilis

The main mode of transmission of syphilis is coming in contact with a syphilitic sore. The sore, also called the primary chancre is one of the first signs of syphilis infection in a person. It is painless, which is why it may sometimes not be noticed by the person who has it. Usually, a single sore is formed at the site of inoculation (where the syphilis bacteria entered the infected person’s body). However, multiple primary chancres may form in a person if they have other concurrent STIs such as chlamydia or HIV.

If the primary chancre is inside the vagina, anus, or on the surface of the penis, contact with them can be avoided by using a condom. However, sometimes chancres may develop outside of these areas, and skin-to-skin contact with them can transmit the syphilis bacteria.

HPV

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is the most common STD in the U.S. It sometimes presents as warts on the skin. The infection is contagious through skin-to-skin contact with the warts. The warts generally develop on the genital area such as in or around the vagina, cervix, penis, or scrotum. Warts can also develop around the anus. Warts can develop in the mouth or throat after having oral sex with an infected person.

If the warts are outside of the area covered by the condom, contact with them can spread HPV. The virus is extremely contagious, and 2 out of 3 people whose skin rubs against the warts get infected.

Condoms can prevent STDs

Special precautions during anal sex

Anal sex involving the penis and anal sex with the mouth with partners of unknown STI status are considered the highest-risk activities for both men and women. This is because the walls of the anus are thin and rich in blood vessels. They are prone to getting irritated and bleeding during intercourse. Having open cuts on the skin makes the receiver more prone to getting any infections present on the partner’s penis or mouth. On the other hand, if the receiving partner has an infection in their anus or blood, microscopic open cuts on the penis or the mouth can make it more likely for the partner to get infected. When engaging in anal sex, it is important to protect yourself. A condom on the penis and using a dental dam or another latex or plastic covering on the anus can reduce the risk of catching infections.

Vaccines

While there are no vaccines to prevent getting herpes or syphilis, there are vaccines against HPV.

The CDC recommends that children 11-12 years of age get two doses of the HPV vaccine. Individuals up to 26 years of age can get the HPV vaccine. The vaccine sharply decreases the risk of getting HPV. After that age, the CDC believes that most people would already have encountered HPV and will not benefit from the vaccination. However, those who are 27-45 years of age and have very active sexual lifestyles with multiple or anonymous partners may still benefit from the vaccine which can prevent them from strains of HPV they haven’t encountered yet and should discuss the vaccine with their medical providers.

Healthy sexual health routines

Routine and correct use of condoms can prevent most STDs and reduce the chances of getting others. The most effective condoms are latex, though polyurethane or polyisoprene condoms may be used by those who have latex allergy. In addition to male condoms, female condoms also exist giving women an option to protect themselves. However, in male-female vaginal sex, only one partner needs to wear a condom.

The information provided in our blog posts is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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