Condoms are more effective than previously thought at preventing HIV transmission among gay and bisexual men who have anal sex, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Aidsmap reports that a new study published in the medical journal AIDS shows that, when used 100% of the time, condoms prevent more than nine out of 10 HIV infections. This number is much higher than previous CDC studies. One 2014 study found that, when used all the time, condoms only stopped infections around seven out of 10 times.
What’s behind the uptick? Researchers said that, rather than looking at the risk per sex act, they looked at the efficacy of a condom per number of partners. Basically, the thought was that for HIV-negative men who consistently have sex with only one partner, the risk would remain relatively low, as opposed to a someone who might encounter sex with someone with a high viral load as they encounter more sexual partners.
The analysis that led to this number looked at condom efficacy among gay and bisexual men in four different studies — all from before 2005. Researchers looked at older studies because current studies had far too many undetectable partners. Because these partners’ viral loads were undetectable, they were uninfectious.
Of course, all of these studies are before the advent of Truvada as pre-exposure prophylaxis, which the FDA approved for use to prevent HIV transmission in 2012. For people who take Truvada every day, studies have shown that the risk of acquiring HIV is near zero.
One of the caveats about this study is that the number presented — 92% — is for people who have 100% consistent condom use, which is something very few people, gay or straight, actually have.
Of course, there’s no reason to shame those who cannot or do not use condoms. Studies have shown that a desire for more intimacy between partners is one reason people forgo condom use. Desire for intimacy is also a major factor in why people choose to take PrEP.