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Condoms are the most effective way to safeguard your sexual health as they provide a very thin barrier that stops sperm, bacteria and viruses getting from one person and into another.

Do condoms work?

Used correctly they have a very good success rate in preventing unwanted pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. People who claim HIV can get through condoms are wrong.

Types of condom

The male condom is worn by a man over his erect penis, while the Femidom (female condom) is a pouch with two rings inside it that a woman inserts into her vagina before sex.

There are different condoms to choose from too.

How effective are condoms?


When used correctly each time you have sex, condoms are the best protection against STIs and HIV when having vaginal, anal or oral sex.

Water-based or silicone-based lube (such as KY Jelly) can make condoms even more effective as it helps to prevent friction which can lead to tears.

Oil-based lube such as Vaseline shouldn’t be used as it can cause a condom to break.

The important thing is to use condoms correctly and consistently.


If over one year men would use condoms properly and consistently with their female partners, 98% of these women would avoid getting pregnant.

Female condoms have a slightly lower level of effectiveness - 95% if used correctly.

While other contraceptives such as the Pill protect against unwanted pregnancies, they offer no protection against STIs, unlike the condom.

Using a male or a female condom together with other methods of contraception offers extra protection against both pregnancy and infections.

The benefits of condoms

Compared to other products that protect against pregnancy and STIs, condoms are: 

  • cheap (or free at sexual health clinics)
  • easy to find
  • only used while sex is happening
  • free of side effects
  • easily used by anyone and without the help of a health worker.

Problems with condoms?

Of course condoms can have their problems, just like anything else, but there are ways you can manage your condom crises.

Oral sex and HIV ››



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  • Hi, I'd just like to thank you guys for the help and guidance and recommending some great places to purchase condoms online which is a lot more discreet than actually visiting a store (its kinda embarrassing for us) if anyone else reads this and is in need, you can buy condoms online at <a href="http://britishcondoms.uk/">British Condoms</a> or at http://durex.co.uk - its so worth not taking the risk.
    Thanks again.

    Posted 04:54 Sun 18 Oct 2015

The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 3/6/2016 by Anna Peters

Date due for the next review: 3/6/2019

Content Author: Richard Scholey

Current Owner: Health Promotion

More information:

Do condoms work?, NAM aidsmap

Male condoms, NHS Choices, January 2015

Female condoms, NHS Choices, January 2015

Contraception, NAM aidsmap, July 2014

Contraception guide - Which method of contraception suits me?, NHS Choices, February 2016

How do I use a condom?, NHS Choices, July 2015

How to use condoms and lubricant, NAM aidsmap

Do condoms always prevent HIV transmission, NHS Choices, July 2015

Preventing HIV, NHS Choices, September 2014

Male condom use -- The right way to use a male condom, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 2016

Condoms for HIV Prevention, WHO (2010)

RA Hatcher, J Trussel, AL Nelson et al. Contraceptive Technology (19th ed), New York: Ardent Media. ISBN 1-59708-001-2. (Archived from the original in 2008)

Condoms and STDs: Fact Sheet for Public Health Personnel, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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