The February 2005 issue of Consumer Reports, the magazine of Consumers Union, an independent, nonprofit, consumer safety rights organization, contains the organization's latest condom rankings. A total of 23 specific brands of latex condoms were subjected to a series of rigorous tests of strength and reliability. The brands and styles tested varied in thickness, textures, and price, as well as type of lubrication, if any.
Consumers Union gauged strength using its own Burst Index test, "based on research showing that a condom's failure rate in use is correlated with the volume of air it can withstand." For the test, a batch of 120 samples of each brand was inflated until they burst. Researchers noted the average number of liters the condoms could hold and compared it to a strength threshold of 25 liters. They also noted the number of premature breakages (those condoms that broke before reaching the strength threshold).
The researchers then gauged reliability by measuring how many samples met the established minimum industry standards for air pressure and volume. The following seven condoms receiving the highest rankings, receiving both "excellent" marks in both strength and reliability:
- Durex Extra Sensitive Lubricated Latex
- Durex Performax Lubricated
- LifeStyles Classic Collection Ultra Sensitive Lubricated
- TheyFit Lubricated
- Trojan Extended Pleasure Climax Control Lubricant
- Trojan Non-lubricated
- Trojan Ultra Please Spermicidal Lubricant
While the report states that "all the condoms we tested . . . are fine options," two condoms tested received noticeably poorer scores. Planned Parenthood's Assorted Colors variety received a "fair" overall score due to its "poor" performance in the strength test, while Planned Parenthood's Honeydew brand condom received the only overall "poor" rating, after receiving low scores in both strength and reliability. The authors recommend choosing a top-rated latex condom and using in correctly and consistently to offer the best protection from STDs.
The condom ratings are part of a larger article on contraception, which includes a comparative guide to contraceptive choices available to American consumers. The authors note that "of the many options available for pregnancy prevention, condoms remain the only method that also can help prevent sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, which causes AIDS."
In a sidebar the article also draws attention to the changes in the information about condoms on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) websites. Specifically, it points to a fact sheet that used to state that condoms were effective in preventing STDs and provide extensive information on the varieties of condoms and lubricants and how to use them during vaginal and anal intercourse as well as oral sex. During 2002, however, the CDC changed this fact sheet the latest revision of which omits these facts and declares that abstinence from sexual intercourse outside of a monogamous relationship is the "surest way" to prevent STDs.
Despite the proliferation of misinformation about condoms in recent years, research such as the independent study reported in this article continues to show their reliability and value. Condoms remain one of the best methods of preventing unintended pregnancy and are one of the only methods for sexually active individuals to protect themselves against STDs, including HIV.
For the entire article, see http://www.consumerreports.org/main/content/display_report.jsp?FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=551075&bmUID=1106598865309
For more information on condoms, see the SIECUS fact sheet, "The Truth about Condoms".