Condom Statistics

So I was looking up something, and I came across the statistic that condoms are 86% effective. Since it came from the official site of another form of birth control, I looked at it sceptically.

Then I was looking at a thread on here (I can’t remember which one, sorry…) and found the FDA site ( which says the same thing.

I never knew it was that low. Did you? In Esprix’s AIDS facts thread he says that they have a 2% failure rate, and people put forth anecdotal evidence that it was even lower than that.

So what the hell is going on???

It may be that the different statistics are complied using different methods. For example, if you calculate the probability of impregating a woman in a one time encounter, you will get a different percentage than you would if you calculate the probability with couples that only use that method of birth control over a year.

The FDA link didn’t take me anywhere, but it would be useful to know which method they used.

I also saw a statistic on WebMD that said condoms were “98% to 100% effective.” Compiling the data, as said, is probably the key between the disrepancies here. The CDC, IIRC, said something about “when used correctly,” i.e., enough lubrication, putting them on right, etc., they are about 98% effective (you’d be surprised at how many young people are totally clueless about contraception and its proper use). And they may also only be talking about breakage from proper use, rather than breakage from improper use. Laboratory tests may be another kettle of fish altogether.

But the fact remains they are the most reliable, time-tested method of both birth control and STD prevention.


The correct link does not have a zero at the end.
This site is discussing the effectiveness of condoms as birth control, so it is no wonder they come up with different numbers than sources discussing the effectiveness of condoms for HIV infection prevention.

This is one of the many problems with doing experiments. What is “Failure”? Once you have failure defined, you can make all the experiments you want and see what happens.

When condoms are cited to have a high failure rate (the 86% effective/14% failure) you say the FDA claimed) they are usually counting people who forgot or misused condoms as experimental failures.

When condoms are cited as having a very low failure rate (Esprix’s 2% failure rate/98% effective) the testers are typically looking at “perfect users”. Perfect Users are people who never forget, pay attention to expiration dates and always use water-based lube.

There is an interesting write up on condom effectiveness by consumer reports. I belive it is some years old know, but still interesting.

Searching for “FDA report effective condoms” brings up several good sites, including:
This site has some good guidelines for how to use condoms properly.