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In light of STD/Condom Week (10 – 16 February), Affinity Health, a leading provider of high-quality healthcare explores the various Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) condoms may not protect against, and the steps individuals can take to protect themselves and their partners.


What Are STDs?

STDs are a serious public health concern, affecting millions of people worldwide. While condoms have long been considered a reliable method of preventing STDs, recent research has shown that they may not be as effective as previously thought, particularly when it comes to certain STDs.

Human Papillomavirus

One of the most well-known STDs that condoms may not prevent is human papillomavirus (HPV).


According to the National Library of Medicine, HPV is one of the most common STIs. It is most usually transmitted during vaginal or anal intercourse, but can also spread through close skin-to-skin contact.

A person infected with HPV can infect another person even if they show no signs or symptoms.


Signs and symptoms of HPV include genital warts (that appear as flat lesions, small cauliflower-like bumps or tiny stemlike protrusions), common warts (that appear as rough, raised bumps and usually occur on the hands and fingers), plantar warts (hard, grainy growths that usually appear on the heels or balls of your feet), and flat warts (flat-topped, slightly raised lesions that can appear anywhere).


While condoms can reduce the risk of HPV transmission, they may not provide complete protection, as the virus can be present on skin areas not covered by a condom.


In addition, condoms may not protect against syphilis, which is caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that in 2020, 133,945 cases of all stages of syphilis were reported, including 41,655 cases of primary and secondary (P&S) syphilis, the most infectious stages of the disease.


Syphilis can be transmitted through direct contact with a syphilis sore, which can occur on or around the genitals, rectum, or mouth. Condoms can reduce the risk of syphilis transmission, but they may not provide complete protection, as syphilis sores can occur on skin areas not covered by a condom.


Gonorrhea And Chlamydia

Finally, condoms may not provide complete protection against gonorrhea and chlamydia, two common bacterial STDs.


According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 78 million people are infected with gonorrhea each year, while an estimated 131 million people are infected with chlamydia.


Condoms can reduce the risk of gonorrhea and chlamydia transmission, but they may not provide complete protection, as these bacterial infections can be present in the throat, rectum, or eyes.

How To Prevent the Spread of STDs

So, what can individuals do to protect themselves and their partners from STDs? Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health, recommends a combination of methods, including consistent and correct use of condoms, regular testing for STDs, and vaccination against HPV and hepatitis B.


It’s also important to maintain open and honest communication with sexual partners about testing and vaccination status, and to avoid risky behaviors such as unprotected sex or having multiple partners,” concludes Hewlett.

About Affinity Health 

Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading provider of health insurance, offering you a range of options at affordable rates including access to the widest national provider network. We understand the importance of having medical insurance that meets your needs, your budget, and your lifestyle. Our range of healthcare products are designed to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to always give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service at all times. For more information, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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