Condoms: Little-Known Facts

The use of condoms is considered normal, almost compulsory, for many people engaging in sex today, whether married or unmarried. Of course, pro-lifers and Catholics oppose this unnatural device on the moral level. It not only disrupts the mechanism of transmitting human life in the most direct way possible; it also encourages promiscuity with false promises of “preventing pregnancy” or diseases.

But even on the practical level, condoms are documented as not doing what they are meant to! The condom “failure” rate (meaning the permission of natural pregnancy) is high, and the latex balloon carries with it a host of other practical problems.

 

HIV positive blood test

 

(A note: this article uses scare quotes for phrases like “prevent pregnancy,” “failure,” and others, because these are talking points from the contraceptive worldview that divorce sex from procreation as a natural end.)

How effective are condoms? How effective are they at “preventing pregnancy”? Do condoms prevent HIV and other diseases effectively? The answer to these three questions: not very. In this article, we’ll cover the following points about the ineffectiveness of condoms:

  • Condom “failure” rate is high
  • Condoms mean exposure to disease
  • Condoms do not “prevent pregnancy” over time
  • Condom promoters use irrelevant evidence
  • Condoms haven’t stopped AIDS epidemics
  • Abstinence and monogamy do stop AIDS
  • Condoms just don’t work

Let’s begin.

 

1. Condom “Failure” Rate Is High

The male condom is the most commonly used barrier method of contraception in the world. But how effective are condoms? According to mainstream scientific sources, their efficacy has been grossly overstated by condom promoters. After the use of just 10, the probability of at least one “failure” is 46.51%, according to calculations done by Human Life International based on data from the authoritative Contraceptive Technology (21st Edition, 2018) and other sources.1

 

pie chart showing how effective are condoms

 

Twenty-three major studies of almost 60,000 condoms used during heterosexual intercourse in five different countries have found that 4% of all the condoms broke and 2.06% of them partially or completely slipped off, for a total “failure” rate of 6.06%. That means that about 1 in 17 uses results in condom “failure.” “Failure” means exposure to all the sexually transmitted diseases that the other person has and the possibility of pregnancy. Even the highest-quality condoms used in the most “effective” manner possible by educated, monogamous, adult couples “fail” at a high rate under real-world conditions. This information is available from a Human Life International meta-analysis that draws on information in Contraceptive Technology (21st Edition, 2018) and other studies.2

 

2. Condoms Mean Exposure to Disease

Because of the high “failure” rate of condoms, sexually active youths and adults who rely on them are, practically speaking, liable to be exposed to disease on a regular basis unless their partners are disease-free. And if they are are disease-free, there is no need to use condoms for disease “protection.”

Condoms do not eliminate risk of HIV when used by those who engage in high-risk behaviors such as promiscuity or sodomy, because the cumulative probability of disease transmission increases significantly with each sexual act, and promiscuity and sodomy multiply risk by adding to the number of partners and involving contact with areas more prone to transmitting disease.

In addition, condoms cannot protect effectively against diseases spread by skin-to-skin contact, such as herpes, HPV, and syphilis, as admitted by various sources, including the CDC.3 Even other diseases against which condoms are most effective still present significant risks, due precisely to their ineffectiveness under normal conditions. For example, in monogamous, HIV serodiscordant male-female couples, only an 80% to 94% transmission risk reduction is granted.4 This sounds like a lot, but this means there is still at least 6% and up to 20% of the original risk of transmission (which is not given in the study cited here), and that risk increases cumulatively with each sexual act. Suddenly condoms don’t sound very “safe.”

In addition, the transmission risk reduction for chlamydia and gonorrhea is too difficult to assess statistically because of study design flaws and lack of good data, but what little data does exist is so widely varied as to give little reason to think condom use can effectively eliminate these diseases.5

 

3. Condoms Do Not “Prevent Pregnancy” Over Time

Within a year, 13% of sexually active women whose partners use condoms for contraception become pregnant, according to Contraceptive Technology, 21st Edition, and other top scientific sources. After two years, this means 24% have a pregnancy. After three years, it’s 34%. After four years, it’s 43%. After five years, it’s 50%.6

 

graph showing year by year statistics of condom failure rate, how effective are condoms at preventing pregnancy

 

The bottom line: condoms don’t “prevent pregnancy” in the long run.

These figures are derived from studies of committed, adult couples using new and properly stored condoms which have not been allowed to degrade. The numbers for youth, for women with multiple partners, and for poor people and those in developing countries using expired or improperly stored condoms are likely worse.

This high “failure” rate means consistent leakage over time, inevitably making many episodes of sexual intercourse with condoms nearly equivalent to sex without condoms.

 

4. Condom Promoters Use Irrelevant Evidence

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and other global condom promoters claim that condoms have a 98% “success” rate, instead of the 87% “success rate” documented in real-world studies.

The 98% success rate is based on ideal use every time by well-trained and highly disciplined adults under monitoring by scientists. What is relevant is the “success” rate of condoms by average people, who sometimes fail to put on condoms correctly or replace them immediately if the condom breaks in the heat of the moment, things that happen in the real world over time.

 

graphs showing condom failure rate, both method failure rate and user failure rate

 

Even studies of trained, committed adult couples using new and properly stored condoms find a real-world “pregnancy prevention success” rate of 87% over a 12-month period (Contraceptive Technology, 21st Edition; same datum as above).7 Unmarried teenagers, often the targets of condom promoters, almost certainly have a far worse record.

 

5. Condoms Haven’t Stopped AIDS Epidemics

In developing countries that have made condom use their primary AIDS prevention strategy, HIV infection rates have a history of continuing to rise or, at best, not dropping significantly.

An example is the case of Lesotho, which in 2021 had a 75.6% condom usage rate, the second highest among countries participating in the 4th HIV Research for Prevention conference hosted by the International AIDS Society in 2021.8 Despite this, Lesotho’s current average HIV prevalence among adults is an enormous 25.6%—the second highest in the world.9 This has been the level since about 2005.10

Eswatini, the country with the highest condom use percentage in 2021 at 85% (!),11 also has had the world’s highest HIV prevalence rate—over 25% (27.6% in 2010, 26.8% in 2020)—for a decade, despite a drop in new infections.12

In 2004, the journal Studies in Family Planning concluded, “No clear examples have emerged yet of a country that has turned back a generalized epidemic primarily by means of condom promotion.” This still holds true today. In fact, the primary reason why there has been a decline in AIDS transmission in Sub-Saharan Africa, from an estimated 2.2 million new infections (2005) to an estimated 1.5 million (2013), is the expanded use of anti-retroviral technology, not condoms.13 Yet the United Nations, the European Union and its member countries, some U.S. agencies, and international organizations continue to promote condom use as the primary method of combating the spread of HIV and other STIs.

 

6. Abstinence and Monogamy Do Stop AIDS

Uganda, whose president and first lady chose to highlight abstinence and monogamy instead of condoms in their nation’s AIDS prevention efforts, has by far the best record in combating HIV in the developing world. Uganda’s ABC programAbstinence first, Be faithful in a relationship, and use Condoms if you’re not—reduced the HIV infection rate from about 15% at the start of the 1990s to about 5% in 2001.14 As of 2019, the number was at about 6.2%.15

Though it is debated whether the ABC effort’s success was based on abstinence and fidelity primarily or only partly, but the fact of the matter is that the “A” and the “B” mattered a lot: the average age of “sexual debut” increased among young men and women, and the average number of sexual partners decreased, throughout the years of the ABC program.16

The Philippines also chose to emphasize abstinence and monogamy while de-emphasizing condoms to combat AIDS rates (which has always been quite low in the country),17 and the HIV prevalence rate remains a low 0.2% of adults 15-49, according to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), although this percentage has notably increased since the introduction of massive quantities of birth control into the nation.18

Thailand, a country that had HIV rates similar to those of the Philippines at the beginning of the crisis in 1984, and which is in the same region of the world, has strongly emphasized condom use. In 2021, it had an adult HIV prevalence rate of 1%, or 5 times that of the Philippines.19 A decrease in new HIV infections in the last decade is likely due mostly to anti-retrovirals.

 

7. Ultimately, Condoms Just Don’t Work

Almost everyone is aware of the massive campaign to promote condom use that has gone on for decades around the world, including the free distribution of condoms by the millions through schools and health clinics in the United States and other Western countries. Obviously, it’s not working.

Teen pregnancy in the United States is still at sky-high levels (there were 171,674 births to mothers aged 15 to 19 in 2019, which of course does not count any pregnancies stopped by abortion or miscarriage, nor births to 10-to-14-year-olds20). There was a decline in teen pregnancies in recent years, probably due to a rise in either chastity or, more likely, other forms of contraception. Additionally, nearly 900,000 abortions are performed each year in the United States as of 2019 (the last year with data reported), a number that is down from previous years but still monumental.21

In 2009, about 25% of teenage girls had an STI, including almost 40% of those who had had “sexual experience.”22 A decade later in 2019, estimates were about the same.23 Total STI rates have also reached record levels and are continuing to increase; nearly half of the 26 million new STIs each year in America are among 15-to-24-year-olds, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). This is up from about 19 million a decade ago.24

 

Conclusion

The main point of this article is that abstinence is important not only from a moral standpoint, but also from a basic scientific and health standpoint. Even disregarding the immorality of condoms for a moment, the fact remains that they can’t even do what they are supposed to do—especially not on the scale of a country’s population. They will not save anyone from the consequences of promiscuous indulgence.

 

young couple from the back walking hand in hand

 

We strongly urge you to look at HLI’s many resources on a wholesome, healthy approach to sexuality, which reserves sex for a fruitful, faithful marriage to one spouse for life.

 

Endnotes

[1] The formula used for this particular calculation was 1 – (1 – 0.0606)n, where n is the number of uses of the condom (so in this case, n=10). The original data is from Robert Hatcher et al., Contraceptive Technology (21st Edition; New York: Ayer Company, 2018), 100.

See also Haishan Fu et al., “Contraceptive Failure Rates: New Estimates From the 1995 Survey of Family Growth,” Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health vol. 31, 2 (March/April 1999): 56-63, https://www.guttmacher.org/journals/psrh/1999/03/contraceptive-failure-rates-new-estimates-1995-national-survey-family-growth.

[2] Please contact HLI’s Dr. Brian Clowes, PhD, at bclowes@hli.org to access the meta-analysis raw spreadsheet (F-21-07). It compiles the twenty-three studies’ data.

[3] “Syphilis – CDC Fact Sheet (Detailed),” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/stdfact-syphilis-detailed.htm; “Genital HPV Infection – Fact Sheet,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/std/HPV/STDFact-HPV.htm; “Genital Herpes – CDC Fact Sheet,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/stdfact-herpes.htm; Warner et al., “Condom Use and Risk of Gonorrhea and Chlamydia: A Systematic Review of Design and Measurement Factors Assessed in Epidemiologic Studies,” Sexually Transmitted Diseases, vol. 33, 1 (January 2006): 36-51, https://journals.lww.com/stdjournal/Fulltext/2006/01000/Condom_Use_and_Risk_of_Gonorrhea_and_Chlamydia__A.11.aspx.

[4] Warner et al., “Condom Use and Risk.”

[5] Ibid.

[6] The “13%” datum is from Hatcher et al., Contraceptive Technology, 100. The formula for calculation of probability is the same as that used already above: 1 – (0.87)n, where n is the number of years (0.87 is the probability of not becoming pregnant in the first year, and so the second year needs a compounded probability, 0.872=0.7569, subtracted from 1; etc.).

[7] Hatcher et al., Contraceptive Technology, 100.

[8] “Condom Use, HIV Testing: African Countries Off Track 2030 Targets,” The Herald (Zimbabwe), 26 January 2021, https://www.herald.co.zw/condom-use-hiv-testing-african-countries-off-track-2030-targets/.

[9] Lesotho 2019 HIV and AIDS Progress Report Submitted to Southern African Development Community Secretariat of Social and Human Development, Lesotho National AIDS Commission, 2020, http://nac.org.ls/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Final-SADC-Progress-Report-2020-1.pdf.

[10] “HIV and AIDS in Lesotho,” Avert, https://www.avert.org/professionals/hiv-around-world/sub-saharan-africa/lesotho#footnote1_x7rpn9w.

[11] “Condom Use, HIV Testing,” The Herald (Zimbabwe).

[12] UNAIDS Data 2021, UNAIDS, 2021, 64, https://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/media_asset/JC3032_AIDS_Data_book_2021_En.pdf.

[13] Ayesha B. M. Kharsany and Quarraisha A. Karim, “HIV Infection and AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa: Current Status, Challenges and Opportunities,” Open AIDS Journal, vol. 10 (2016): 34-48, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4893541/.

[14] Elaine M. Murphy et al., “Was the ‘ABC’ Approach (Abstinence, Being Faithful, Using Condoms) Responsible for Uganda’s Decline in HIV?” PLOS Medicine, vol. 3, 9 (September 2006): e379, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1564179/.

[15] 12th Annual Joint AIDS Review (JAR) Final Report, July 2018 – June 2018: Empowering Young People to Champion the End of New HIV Infections, Uganda AIDS Commission and UNAIDS, September 2019, 1, https://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/country/documents/UGA_2020_countryreport.pdf.

[16] Murphy et al., “Was the ‘ABC’ Approach Responsible?”

[17] Hilary White, “Philippine AIDS Rate Has Doubled Coinciding with Increase of Condom Use,” LifeSiteNews, 3 February 2006, https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/philippine-aids-rate-has-doubled-coinciding-with-increase-of-condom-use/; Joseph D’Agostino, “Target: Pro-Life Philippines,” Population Research Institute, 1 July 2005, https://www.pop.org/target-pro-life-philippines-2/; Angelo Porciuncula, “Can the Philippines Keep AIDS at Bay If It Embraces Condom Culture?” Mercatornet, 4 March 2012, https://mercatornet.com/can_the_philippines_keep_aids_at_bay_if_it_embraces_condom_culture/13052/.

[18] UNAIDS Data 2021, UNAIDS, 212.

[19] Ibid., 220.

[20] B.E. Hamilton, L. Rossen, L. Lu, and Y. Chong, “U.S. and State Trends on Teen Births, 1990-2019,” National Center for Health Statistics Data Visualization Gallery, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data-visualization/teen-births/.

[21] “Induced Abortion in the United States,” Guttmacher Institute, September 2019, https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-united-states.

[22] Jennifer Warner, “1 in 4 Teen Girls Has an STD,” WebMD, 23 November2009, https://www.webmd.com/sex/news/20091123/1-in-4-teen-girls-have-sti.

[23] C. L. Shannon and J. D. Klausner, “The Growing Epidemic of Sexually Transmitted Infections in Adolescents: A Neglected Population,” Current Opinion in Pediatrics, vol. 30, 1 (February 2019), 137-143, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5856484/#R1.

[24] “Adolescents and Young Adults,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/std/life-stages-populations/adolescents-youngadults.htm.



10 Comments

  1. ARES BETA on January 17, 2017 at 9:41 PM

    This really helped a lot.

  2. Randall Burns on June 13, 2017 at 1:40 PM

    I disagree with few of the facts you cite. However: they are selective facts.

    One important error: The third world country with with best track record of fighting HIV is Cuba. Cuba’s strategy emphasized mass testing and education rather than condoms or monogamy/abstinence.

    Also: on Uganda, besides their monogamy promotion program, they also made a real effort to treat those STD’s that can be treated. Other STD’s are also a major factor in containing HIV because HIV tends to piggyback on other STD’s. It would take some real work to sort out just how each contributed to their results.

  3. Gene Kay on October 8, 2019 at 2:43 PM

    I always knew condoms were unnecessary and even dangerous — this post proves it! I will never allow my children to use them.

  4. Emilia on May 21, 2020 at 10:46 AM

    Someone provided a quote from the CDC. The same CDC that has been wrong on almost everything concerning the Chinese Virus!

    • Wallter Segall on February 17, 2022 at 4:11 PM

      The CDC has been on target and was overruled by Trump until 20Jan21. It was only after we got rid of Trump that we managed to start to make progress against COVID. The anti-vax movement has stymied CDC in making more progress. JMHO.

  5. Christa on February 18, 2022 at 8:45 AM

    If condoms prevent sexually transmitted diseases, why has the global sexual disease pandemic continued to increase? Condoms are inexpensive, often free, and widely available. They don’t prevent disease, they promote dysfunction, disorder and disease.

    Promoting the use of condoms as “protection against sexually transmitted disease” and also as “protection against pregnancy” has helped those who profit from abortion to associate pregnancy with sexually transmitted disease. This has been beneficial for them in promoting contraception and abortion as “healthcare” though neither have anything to do with healthcare. Pregnancy is a sign of health, not a disease. Infertility, which is the function of contraception and abortion, is a disease.

    The use of any form of contraception increases risks of pregnancy complications when they fail. Hormonal contraception is a class one carcinogen and an endocrine distrupror. Ectopic pregnancy risk is increase when it or the IUD fail to prevent fertilization. Hormonal contraception Also increases a woman’s risk of contracting and transmitting sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS. The use of condoms and of other barrier methods have been shown, in multiple studies, to greatly increase a woman’s risk of preeclampsia when they fail. The WHO lists preeclampsia as a leading cause of maternal death globally.
    The use of any form of contraception also increases the risk of fatal violence against women as does a crisis pregnancy because of failed contraception. Homicide is now a leading cause of maternal death in the US. I has been recently or is currently the leading cause of maternal death in some US states. Coercion for a woman to abort her child can be threat of abandonment or loss of support or income. If a woman doesn’t “choose” to abort, coercion can escalate to fatal violence.

    The promotion of sex divorced from procreation is extremely harmful to all of us because it is disordered, and it causes dysfunction and disease, but it is especially harmful to girls and women who have been targeted and groomed for abuse by the industry that promotes it. Girls and women have a higher risk of infertility from sexually transmitted disease, a higher risk of cancer, heart attack, stroke, long-term mental illness, and other diseases, a higher risk of death from violence and from all all other causes related to and increased by the use of contraception and as a result of abortion.
    I am grateful for your articles and for your commitment to defending the lives of those who are most vulnerable. Thank you.

    • HLI Staff on February 18, 2022 at 2:24 PM

      Great points all, Christa. Thank you!

  6. Gerard Pinkas on February 18, 2022 at 5:19 PM

    It was a couple of decades ago that an article appeared in the news, stating that barrier contraceptives were responsible, when pregnancy resulted from failure, of an increase in pre-eclampsia about 2.5 times higher than in pregnancies that did not use them. The hypothesis was made that these devices interfere with the development in the woman of the immune response with her male partner that preserves the living fetus. Because the genes from the child are from a male and female, there is disparity between them which could produce proteins that could cause an immune reaction which threatens the health of the mother via pre-eclampsia, which sometimes becomes toxic and deadly. The article made the point that in a normal sexual relationship (monogamous, male/female) the woman’s immune system accommodates to the monogamous husband to protect her from this maladaptive response. We, human beings were made to be exclusively monogamous. The modern sex movement has perverted human nature via birth control of all sorts. Sadly, the greatest victims of this evil movement are those who choose to live according to their human nature, and who often find it impossible to find a chaste spouse.

    • HLI Staff on February 22, 2022 at 10:13 AM

      Thank you for reading and sharing this little-known hypothesis, Gerard.

    • Prolife on May 11, 2022 at 1:42 AM

      All forms of birth control are evil and goes against gods will and leads to women becoming irresponsible and promiscuous with multiple sexual partners and it badly hurts not only religious values but also the family unit.

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