Can the HIV Virus Pass Right Through Latex Condoms ?

In my research on whether condoms contain the cancer causing chemical Nitrosamines I also stumbled upon other interesting facts about condoms. The most interesting came from the June 1993 Rubber World Magazine ( ). Rubber World Magazine is the rubber industry’s technical trade magazine. The author of the article is Dr. C.M. Roland, Head of Polymer Physics Naval Research Laboratory. Here is his brief bio;

Biographical Sketch:
Mike Roland is a physical chemist and head of the Polymer Physics Section at the Naval Research Laboratory. His research interests are the mechanical and viscoelastic properties of materials. He received his PhD in chemistry from the Pennsylvania State University in 1980, and prior to joining NRL in 1986 was a group leader at the Firestone Central Research Laboratories in Akron, OH. From 1991 to 1999 he edited the American Chemical Society journal “Rubber Chemistry & Technology”, and currently is on the editorial board of “Macromolecules”. His awards include the Sparks-Thomas Award (ACS) in 1991, Edison Award (NRL) in 2000, Melvin Mooney Award (ACS) in 2002, Sigma Xi Award for Pure Science (NRL) in 2002, and he became a Fellow of the Institute of Materials, Minerals, and Mining (UK) in 2008. He has authored over 300 publications and holds 13 patents.

Dr. Roland’s has stated that latex condoms are actually ineffective in stopping the spread of the HIV virus. His research showed that latex condoms, on the molecular level, have holes in them that are simply too large to stop the HIV virus from passing through the latex membrane.

I suggest that everyone reading this article read his article in its entirety. You can find it here -> I will quote some of the more important facts from his article.

Dr. Roland states;

“The defining feature of viruses is their diminutive size; electron microscopy reveals the AIDS virus to be only 100 to 120 nm (0.1 micron) in size. This is consistent with their passage through polycarbonate filters with holes in the 0.1 to 0.2 [Micro]m range.  The size of HIV is 60 times smaller than the bacteria causing syphilis and 450 times smaller than human sperm… Clearly, the use of a condom or rubber glove for barrier protection from a virus represents a different problem from that of preventing bacterial infection or conception.”

Condoms were developed to prevent pregnancy. They have also proven to be useful in preventing certain bacterial sexually transmitted disease such as gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis. However, according to Dr. Roland, based on the extremely small size of the HIV virus – latex condoms are not completely effective to prevent the spread of the HIV virus.

Roland goes on to state that the “water-leakage” test used by many condom manufacturers is simply not suitable to test for HIV transmission rates through the latex membrane. Basically HIV is smaller then even water molecules, Roland states;

“These results indicate that the water leakage test is not adequate for the detection of the small holes relevant for viral transmission. This was directly demonstrated in a study of the ability of latex condoms to prevent passage of fluorescence labeled polystyrene microspheres, 110 nm in diameter (i.e., equivalent in size to the AIDS virus). One-third of the condoms, none of which contained holes large enough to be rejected by the water leakage test, allowed passage of the microspheres, with fluid flow rates lying in the range of 0.4 to 1.6 nanoliters per second.”

He based his opinion on the findings of a 1992 condom research study performed by the FDA. Physical science researchers tested the ability of 89 undamaged latex condoms manufactured in the US to prevent passage of HIV size particles under simulated physiologic conditions at their Food and Drug Administration laboratory in Rockville, Maryland. You can read an abstract of their research here ->

Here’s is what the FDA found;

Leakage of HIV-sized particles through latex condoms was detectable for as many as 29 of the 89 condoms tested. Worst-case condom barrier effectiveness (fluid transfer prevention), however, is shown to be at least 10 times better than not using a condom at all, suggesting that condom use substantially reduces but does not eliminate the risk of HIV transmission.”

These findings have nothing to do with whether the condom was properly used. These test results only speak to whether the condom itself has holes in it large enough to allow the HIV virus to pass through it. Obviously, not properly using a condom, as well as breakage and slippage will only increase its ineffectiveness.

Before anyone throws anything at their screen in anger allow me to discuss the National Institute of Health’s condom effectiveness study released in July of 2001. To address the questions raised by Roland and other researchers, the NIH held a conference in June 2000 where this issue was investigated further. The report was limited to evaluating the effectiveness of male latex condoms used during penile-vaginal intercourse. It examined evidence on eight STIs—HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, chancroid, trichomoniasis, genital herpes and genital human papillomavirus. The data presented in the report found that male latex condoms are effective in preventing the most serious STI (HIV), the most easily transmitted STIs (gonorrhea and chlamydia) and another important sexually transmitted condition (unplanned pregnancy).

However, the NIH report only stoked the fires of additional debate as to the effectiveness of the male condom to prevent the transmission of STDs. Many attacked the report on political as well as scientific basis.

None the less, no matter what side of the “condoms in porn” debate you may be on the facts are relatively clear. Condoms help in preventing the transmission of HIV but are not 100% effective in the complete prevention of HIV transmission.

One study of heterosexual couples by Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health of the University of Texas found that in cases were one partner was HIV+ and the other was HIV-, a condom’s effectiveness;

“at preventing HIV transmission is estimated to be 87%, but it may vary between 60% and 96%.”

(Please see )

I strongly suggest that everyone do their own research as to this topic. There are many competing voices and view points. Please educate and decide for yourself.


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