Condoms are the ONLY method that protects against HIV, STDs, and pregnancy. But only if used correctly! Learn how.
According to the CDC, when used consistently and correctly latex condoms are ”highly effective” in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV and many other STDs.
Condoms are also 98 percent effective in preventing pregnancy when used correctly, every time. Condoms have expiration dates, so do check the label of the condom before using for maximum effectiveness. If the condom is ripped or looks dry, brittle, stiff, or sticky, it also should not be used. Don’t store condoms in a location that can get very hot, like in your car. If you keep a condom in your wallet or purse, replace it with a new one regularly.
Condoms come in lots of colors, textures, lengths, widths, and thicknesses. The most important thing when choosing a brand is that the condoms be made of latex or polyurethane (plastic). Both of these are highly effective in preventing STDs, HIV and pregnancy.
Avoid using animal skin (or “natural”) condoms, which prevent pregnancy but aren’t as effective in preventing all STDs, including HIV. Also, while male condoms are more popular, female condoms, which are inserted into the vagina, are also an option when male condoms can’t be used.
You can buy condoms in lots of places: drugstores, grocery stores, convenience stores, dispensers in bathrooms, and so on. There are also online retailers, including specialty condom sites as well as online drug stores and groceries that can mail them to you. Testing centers and health clinics may have free condom supplies available as well.
You do not need to be 18 to buy condoms.
Using a pre-lubricated condom, or applying a small amount of water-based lubricant inside and outside the condom can help prevent rips. Oil-based lubricants (for example petroleum jellies, body lotions, mineral or vegetable oils) should not be used with latex condoms because they can cause the latex to break down, reducing or eliminating the condom’s effectiveness.
The condom should be put on before any genital contact. Some STDs can be transmitted without intercourse, through genital (skin-to-skin) contact. Also, pre-cum can contain semen and STDs (including HIV) so you need to wear a condom the whole time from beginning to end, each and every time.
- To open the package, tear gently on the side (not with teeth or scissors, which could rip the condom itself). Pull the condom out slowly (with care) to prevent ripping.
- The rolled condom should be placed over the head of the penis when it is hard.
- Pinch the tip enough to leave a half-inch space for semen to collect. Holding the tip, unroll the condom all the way to the base of the penis.
- The condom should fit snugly – but not too tight – so that it won’t slide off or break during intercourse.
- If you start to put on a condom inside-out, don’t use it. Throw it away and use a new one. You’ll know it’s inside out because it won’t roll down the length of the penis easily.
- If the condom rips at any time, throw that one out and use a new one.
The most common mistake is not using condoms from start (of sexual contact) to finish (after ejaculation). Immediately after ejaculation, hold the base of the condom (so it stays in place and semen cannot spill out), and slowly withdraw the penis – while it is still hard.
The condom should be wrapped in tissue and thrown away in the garbage (not in the toilet as it may clog).
If you feel the condom break at any point during sexual activity:
- Stop immediately
- Remove the broken condom, and
- Put on a new condom.
Condoms can break, slip, or leak if they’re not put on and taken off properly. If the condom breaks, emergency contraception can be used to prevent pregnancy. Emergency contraception can be started 5 days after unprotected sex, but the sooner it’s started the better it works. Emergency contraception does not protect against STDs.