Gay men versus condoms. Where are we at?
Let’s talk about condoms.
While we can avoid transmission of HIV through PrEP and TasP, what about other STIs?
Hepatitis A, B & C
While condoms reduce the risk of contracting Hepatitis, their protection is only high for Hep B, since it’s mostly spread through blood and sexual contact.
Hep A and Hep C are mainly transmitted in two different ways. To get Hep A you need to ingest fecal molecules – easily done through rimming or any other way your mouth comes into contact with someone’s ass – even by proxy such as fingering, unwashed hands, or ass-to-mouth.
Hep C transmission happens mainly through injecting drugs, and rarely through sex.
This means condoms have questionable application when it comes to Hep A and Hep C.
However, for Hep A and Hep B there’s a vaccine which is a lot more reliable than any condom.
Although there is no known vaccine for Hep C, there is actually a cure. Plus, many people clear the infection without medication.
Herpes (Human Simplex Virus)
Herpes spreads through skin contact, which renders condoms useless in protecting you against it. Although herpes is incurable and may be painful during break-outs, it isn’t actually dangerous and for most people the breakouts are rare.
Most sexually active adults contract HSV-1 (cold sore) or HSV-2 (genital herpes), but because routine sexual health screenings don’t include a herpes test, many people just never find out. Why waste time and resources on something that’s inevitable, negligible and likely to cause unnecessary distress?
You may be thinking – “okay, but cold sores and genital herpes are surely not the same” – and you would be right. Strictly speaking, they’re just cousins. But there’s a twist. Most of the herpes appearing in genital areas is the cold sore virus transferred from non-genital areas.
HPV (Human Papilloma Virus)
Moving on to HPV (the wart virus). Transmission wise, pretty much the same story – condoms won’t protect yoiu. However, unlike herpes, HPV is not something to take lightly – it can cause cancer. The great news is that although condoms are ineffective here, an HPV vaccine does exist.
Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea & Syphilis
What about the bacterial infections – chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis? Well, condoms are very good at preventing anal transmission – particularly when you’re the one getting fucked.
But, to avoid bacterial STIs altogether, you’d have to forget about sucking, rimming, heavy petting, and even kissing – unless you use protection for all those at all times – since they can all result in transmission. Some recent studies even show kissing is the number one cause of oral gonorrhoea and chlamydia.
The good news here is that all three of these are easily treatable, and don’t cause complications – as long as they’re detected early.
The conclusion on condoms
Condoms aren’t particularly effective at preventing the transmission or acquisition of STIs. That shouldn’t put you off using them, if you want to, but they’re not some silver bullet keeping you safe – you’re still going to need to get regularly tested for the full range of STIs.