Can Condoms Protect Against HPV?

The Truth About HPV Prevention

Torn packaging of wrapper containing a condom
Getty/Cultura/Andrew Brookes.

It was long thought that condoms did not provide protection against the human papillomavirus (HPV). However, findings from more recent studies prove that condoms do actually provide at least some measure of protection against HPV.

One study done at the University of Washington found that women whose partners always wore condoms, and who did so correctly, decreased their risk of being infected by 70 percent.

Women whose partner wore a condom more than half of the time they engaged in sexual intercourse, but not always, were 50 percent less likely to contract the virus.

HPV is spread through sexual contact, meaning that no penetration is needed to contract the virus. So even if condoms are worn during intercourse, and worn correctly, there is no guarantee of 100 percent protection against HPV. During intercourse, the unprotected areas of the body can still come in contact with the vagina.

Tips for Reducing Your Risk of HPV

Along with using condoms, there are several things you can do to at least help reduce your risk of contracting HPV. For one, you can limit the amount of sexual partners you have. The more sexual partners you have, the more you put yourself at risk of contracting HPV.

You should also consider getting the HPV vaccine. Gardasil, the current FDA-approved vaccine, is available to young women ages 9 through 26.

It protects against two types of HPV known to cause cervical cancer, and two types known to cause genital warts.

The only other way to protect against the transmission of HPV is to practice abstinence.

Further Reading

What Is HPV? What you need to know about HPV, including the symptoms of the virus and how to prevent it.

How to Prevent and Reduce Your Risk of HPV. Currently, there are only two HPV prevention methods: abstinence and the HPV vaccine, though there are other ways to help reduce your risk of developing HPV.

The Top 5 Things You Didn't Know About HPV.What most people don't, but should, know about HPV. Information on how you can contract HPV, which types cause cancer and which don't, and more.

Are HPV and Genital Warts the Same Thing?  HPV is a term used to encompass over 100 different strains of the human papilloma virus. Some of these strains cause genital warts and some are known to cause cervical cancer. The type of HPV that causes genital warts does not cause cancer and the cancer causing type does not cause genital warts. They are two separate strains of the virus.

Is HPV a Sexually Transmitted Disease? HPV is transmitted though both sexual contact and sexual intercourse, and is considered to be the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world. 

Sources:

Winer, Ph.D., Rachel, James P. Hughes, Ph.D., Qinghua Feng, Ph.D., Sandra O'Reilly, B.S., Nancy B. Kiviat, M.D., King K. Holmes, M.D., Ph.D., and Laura A. Koutsky, Ph.D.. "Condom Use and the Risk of Genital Human Papillomavirus Infection in Young Women." New England Journal of Medicine 354:2645-265422 Jun 2006. Accessed 19 Nov 2006.

"HPV Vaccine Q and A." National Immunization Program. 07 July 2006. Centers for Disease Control. 19 Nov 2006.

Centers for Disease and Prevention."Sexually Transmitted Disease Guidelines 2006." Sep 2006. Accessed 7 Nov 2006.

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