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What Are the Pros and Cons of Latex Condoms?

Latex condoms have several advantages as a form of birth control, including low cost, reliability in preventing conception, and usefulness in offering some degree of protection against sexually transmitted infections. A number of possible problems are associated with latex condoms, however. Some people are allergic to latex and may experience discomfort when exposed to these condoms. Additionally, condoms are only effective when used correctly and do, even then, have a small but non-zero rate of failure.

The low cost of latex condoms means that they are within the financial means of most people and governments interested in providing contraception or reducing the spread of sexually transmitted infections. As a result, they often form a key element of programs to provide these services to poor or marginal communities and are distributed by many governments in the developing world. The female condom is particularly well-suited to use in some developing nations where cultural taboos might make men less willing to employ contraception.

Condoms are generally considered to be very effective at preventing conception when used correctly. Not all condom users read or have access to instructions on proper condom use, however, and condoms are much less effective when used improperly. Improper use can also lead to structural failure and breakage, which greatly reduces their health and contraceptive utility.

Correct condom use is also crucial for effective defense against infection. No method other than abstinence is entirely able to limit the spread of sexually transmitted infections, but condoms are extremely effective at protecting against HIV/AIDS and are at least moderately useful in limiting the spread of other infections when used properly. Poor education and improper condom use also limit the effectiveness of latex condoms in preventing the spread of infection. Female condoms, while not as effective at preventing the spread of infection as male condoms, still offer significant protection, and have received attention as a tool that can be used to protect vulnerable women in the third world, who are not culturally able to refuse sexual contact with infected partners, against the spread of disease.

One additional problem associated with latex condoms stems from the allergic reaction that they trigger in a small but statistically significant segment of the population. Condoms made of latex are not appropriate for use by individuals with such allergies. A polyurethane condom or a condom made of natural materials is a better choice for such individuals. A polyurethane condom is likely to be a superior choice, due to lower cost and greater durability and efficacy.

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