|Condoms and HIV
Aug 14, 1996
My doctor has been telling patients that condoms are not more than 70%effective in stoping the HIV virus. He says that there is a new subtype which goes through latex like a bullet. Do you have any views on this
| Response from Dr. Cohen
When figures like "70% effective" are quoted, they often come from studies in which condoms can be said to "fail" even when they are not worn. In other words, if someone says he use condoms to prevent HIV, but he goes on to become infected, that might be classified as a condom failure, even if he only wore the condoms 50% of the time. If condoms are worn 100% of the time and used properly, the rate of failure is much, much lower. When condoms do fail, it is usually a result of the condom breaking. Studies of "discordant couples" (a couple in which one partner is HIV-infected and the other is not) who use condoms consistently show low rates of seroconversion, much lower than you would expect if condoms were only 70% effective. I have never heard of a subtype of HIV that goes through latex "like a bullet." It does not seem plausible for there to be strain variations in the ability of the virus to pass through latex.
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