Using condoms

Condoms, when used properly, provide excellent protection against most sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV.

The most common type of condom is put on the penis. Male condoms are available in different sizes, shapes and thicknesses, depending on your preferences. You can also get flavoured condoms for use in oral sex. Most male condoms are made of latex, but you can get them made out of other materials as well, as some people are allergic to latex. 

Another type of condom, often referred to as the female condom or Femidom, is put in the vagina or anus. These are made of polyurethane, a type of plastic.

A silicone- or water-based lubricant should be used with latex condoms, as oil-based ones weaken condoms and can cause them to break. 

You can also cut a condom into a square of latex to use as protection during activities such as rimming.

HIV and sexual health clinics provide free condoms and free condoms can also often be obtained from gay venues and contraception clinics. 

You can find out more about using condoms in our booklet HIV & sex or in the factsheet Condoms.

Some people find using condoms difficult initially. Some men find they lose their erection when putting the condom on and if this happens it can become a cause of anxiety, which in turn can be a cause of erectile problems.

There are some practical steps you can take, such as making sure you have condoms which fit properly (they come in different shapes and sizes) and keeping them close at hand. Stopping foreplay while you hunt around for a packet of condoms is not good for the mood! 

Some men find it helpful to practise putting on a condom when masturbating, to get used to the sensation and to gain confidence in putting it on and staying hard.

If you’re in a couple, it can help to talk to each other about using condoms, and to make putting the condom on part of your foreplay. 

But if problems persist, talk to someone at your clinic, such as a health adviser, for more information and advice.

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.