Do Condoms Prevent HPV?

Do Condoms Prevent HPV?

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is one that is transmitted via sexual intercourse or sexual contact. It is considered to be the most common sexually transmitted disease globally.

In the times past, it was thought that transmission of HPV could not be prevented by the use of condoms. However, recent studies conducted and published in the New England Journal of Medicine has shown that some measure of protection is provided by condom against the transmission of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).

The study conducted at the University of Washington featured women whose partners always wore condoms, and correctly at that. It was discovered that they had their risk of getting HPV reduced by 70 percent.

Women whose partner wore the condom more than half the time they engaged in sex, but not every time, had their risk of contracting the virus reduced by 50 percent.

Contact is all that is required to contract the virus. This implies that no penetration is needed. This means that HPV can be gotten through anal sex, vaginal sex, oral sex or any form of sex. Wearing of condoms during sexual activity does not give a 100 percent guarantee against protection from the virus. What this means is that if you wear condoms, your risk of getting the virus will be reduced but not totally because the uncovered areas can still be infected with HPV.

Also recall that the term HPV covers more than a hundred different strains of the human papillomavirus. Some of these strains are responsible for cervical cancer, genital warts (HPV 6 and 11), anal cancer, vaginal cancer, penile cancer, cervical cancer and even throat cancer.

If a person has genital warts, it is very likely that he or she bears the human papillomavirus. Even though the warts can be treated, the virus cannot, so it remains there. What this implies is that sexual partners may be infected with the virus but remain unaware of it, or that they may be transmitting it to their partner.

Reducing the risk of HPV

While condoms provide some measure of protection against HPV, there are other things one can do to protect himself from getting infected with the virus. For instance, you can reduce the number of sexual partners you have. Maintaining multiple sex partners puts you more at risk of contracting the Human Papilloma Virus.

You can also try getting the HPV vaccine. The vaccine currently approved by the FDA is Gardasil. Gardasil is available to women between the age range of 9 and 26 years and also for young men between the age ranges of 9 through 21. Gardasil protects against HPV that causes genital warts and cervical cancer. You should note that Gardasil prevents the transmission of the Human Pailloma Virus but does not treat those who are already infected with the virus.

Aside the use of Gardasil, abstinence is the only other way to protect against the transmission of HPV.

Gardasil does not have any known serious effects. Research has shown that it is safe. Mild side effects commonly experienced are redness and pain where you get the shot.

How do you avoid transmitting HPV?

Carriers of HPV do not really know that they have the virus unless they exhibit symptoms such as genital warts. Because of this, the best way you can avoid transmitting it to someone is by getting the HPV vaccine.

Avoid skin-to-skin contact by not having sex

Make use of condoms while having sex. Also make use of dental dams during anal, vaginal or oral sex. Even though dental dams and condoms are not 100 percent effective against HPV as they are against HIV, chlamydia and other STDs, it can minimize your chances of getting the virus.

Does HPV have a treatment?

Most HPV infections resolve on their own. However, if they fail to do, you really should not worry. Though there is no cure for the virus per se, there are treatment options for the complications caused by the virus.

High-risk HPV causes abnormal changes in your body cells that can lead to cancer. You can carry out confirmatory tests via:

  • Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure
  • Cryotherapy
  • Colposcopy


  • Jamison JH, et al. Spectrum of genital human papillomavirus infection in a female adolescent population. Transm Dis. 1995.
  • Chelimo C, et al. Risk factors for and prevention of human papillomaviruses (HPV), genital warts and cervical cancer. J Infect 2013.
Mark Riegel, MD

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