Condom Facts and Figures

Fact sheet
31 July 2003

Condoms are a key part of HIV prevention, as is abstinence and being faithful to one’s partner. All these three strategies make up the “ABC” of HIV/AIDS prevention. With consistent and correct use of condoms, there is a near zero risk of HIV. Studies on couples where one partner is infected show that with consistent condom use, HIV infection rates for the uninfected partner are below 1% per year.

Condoms are also effective barriers against other diseases such as herpes simplex, hepatitis B, chlamydia and gonorrhea. They also prevent pregnancy, although not as effectively. However, pregnancies reported with condom use are often due to user failure rather than product failure.

High rates of condom use have resulted in dramatic drops in the numbers of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). After condom use rates rose among Thai sex workers from 14% in 1989 to 94% five years later, STIs dropped from 400,000 to 30,000 per year. Condom use in Thailand and Cambodia has resulted in drops of HIV rates of more than 80% since the peak of the epidemics.

Nearly everywhere in Asia, more efforts are needed to promote condoms – they may be unavailable or costly, and there may be little public knowledge about their benefits. In many areas, the majority of sex workers are not using condoms consistently. Another study in rural China a few years ago found only 12% knew condoms helped prevent disease. Making

Even countries that have heavily promoted condoms still need to do more. In Thailand for example, where condom accessibility and knowledge is good, the use of condoms is still not as high during casual sex encounters or among hilltribes such as the Hmong or Lahu.

The supply of condoms nearly always falls far below the need across Asia. In China, for example, more than a billion condoms are needed for the sex industry, using the official estimate of six million sex workers. Currently, only about 1.5 billion condoms are produced in the country. In Myanmar, about 50 million condoms per year are required if all needs were met for family planning and disease prevention – several times as many as there are available.

Condoms can be promoted by governments through a variety of ways:

  • Subsidize the costs of condoms, or lower their price by reducing taxes on them
  • Make condoms more convenient to get hold of, by making them available in more stores, pharmacies, truck stops, bars and hotels
  • Make condoms more socially acceptable so people feel less embarrassed to buy them
  • Improve public knowledge about the benefits of condoms and how to use them

The way in which condoms are made accessible has a great impact on whether or not they are acquired.

Vending machines can allow easy access. There may also be a need to market condoms to make them more attractive. Many men may make excuses not to wear condoms. However, why people don't use them and why they say they don't use them may be two different issues. They may complain condoms inhibit sexual gratification and interfere with intercourse, but in reality may be too embarrassed to use them or associate them with "dirty" sex.

Knowledge abour how to use a condom is often poor. To use a condom correctly:

  • Make sure that the condom is of good quality and not past its shelf-life
  • Open the packet carefully so the condom does not tear
  • Squeeze the the tip of the condom before unrolling it on to the erect penis
  • After ejaculation, hold the rim of the condom and pull the penis out when still hard
  • Do not use oil-based lubricants (stick to water-based such as KY Jelly).
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