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Does a Condom Protect You From HPV?

Yes. And, no.

I wish I could be more definitive, but like everything in life, it’s not as simple as that. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease. It’s become so common that nearly all sexually active adults will at some point in their life be exposed and possibly infected by HPV.

It is the ease of which the virus can spread that makes anyone who has had sex susceptible to the virus. If you think that is an overstatement, it’s not. I have diagnosed patients with HPV, shocked because they’ve only had one sexual partner their entire lives. It’s not necessarily the result of an adulterous relationship, but from a partner’s prior exposure where the virus has remained dormant for years.

HPV is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact. So, yes. Using a condom can help lower the risk of transmission by acting as a barrier, preventing that skin-to-skin contact needed for transmission. That’s why is it is important to use a condom from start to finish of sex, including oral and anal sex.

But what about the exposed area at the base of a man’s penis? Unfortunately, this is where a condom fails to protect a person from HPV. It’s that skin contact not covered by a condom where transmission can occur, which happens to be the most common forms of transmission..

So, no. Condoms do not completely protect a person from HPV but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be used. Condoms do help HPV prevention.

There are many strategies, to include using a condom, that you can employ to protect yourself and your partner. They include abstinence, limiting the number of sexual partners, getting vaccinated to protect you from specific strains if under age 26, don’t have sex too young, and even male circumcision has proven effective at preventing transmission.

Dr. Abbey