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The evidence we have is based on three types of trials, and each has potential weaknesses.
For efficacy against HIV and other chronic STIs, studies of the incidence of HIV (or HSV or HPV) in monogamous serodiscordant couples provides the best evidence.
In one of the most highly publicised statements, in October 2003, the President of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, said: "The AIDS virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon.
The spermatozoon can easily pass through the 'net' that is formed by the condom.
The degree of protection they offer against HIV and STIs is significantly better than any other single prevention method, taken in isolation, other than sexual abstinence or complete mutual monogamy between two people who have tested negative for HIV.Laboratory studies and product testing have shown that reputable condoms tested in the laboratory are completely impermeable to micro-organisms as small as viruses.However, the same studies show that condoms come off the penis altogether 3 to 5% of the time but may slip down (but not off) up to 13% of the time.For these reasons, HIV transmission within long-term serodiscordant relationships, especially heterosexual ones, may be rarer than it is between casual sex partners.