How is HIV Transmitted? : How are condoms used correctly?

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How are condoms used correctly?

Contrary to popular opinion, it's not only the sexually inexperienced who aren't familiar with how to use a condom effectively. Whether you're just starting to have sex—or have been going at it for years—a little information may be useful and important.

  • Men: Practice using male condoms while masturbating. MSM hoping to use female condoms for receptive anal sex are also encouraged to practice inserting and removing the condom before using it during intercourse.
  • Women: Practice using male condoms on penis-shaped objects, including ketchup bottles or bananas. Practicing the insertion and removal of female condoms, before they are used during vaginal intercourse, is also recommended.

Remember that the condom must be on the penis before it is inserted into the vagina or anus. The same holds true for female condoms—they must be inserted properly before intercourse begins.

Male condoms should be used only once. Use a new male condom for each episode of intercourse. One study has suggested that female condoms can be reused up to five times, provided that they are disinfected with bleach and water. However, experts caution that the safest way to use female condoms is to use them only once and then discard them.

Here are the key points that always need to be remembered when using male condoms:

Putting on a condom:

Condoms are individually sealed in aluminum or plastic wrapping. Be careful not to tear the condom while unsealing it. Never use a condom that is torn or seems brittle or stiff, past its expiration date, or exposed to extreme heat or cold.
If not circumcised, pull back the foreskin before rolling on the condom.
Leave a half-inch space at the tip of the condom to collect semen. Pinch the air out of the tip with one hand while unrolling the condom over the penis with the other hand.
Roll the condom down to the base of the penis.
Smooth out any air bubbles and lubricate the outside of the condom generously.
Use only one condom at a time. Using two condoms at a time, including two male condoms or a male and a female condom, can increase friction and lead to breakage.

Taking the condom off:

Be sure to pull out of the vagina or anus before the penis goes soft.
Clasp the condom against the base of the penis while pulling out.
Throw the condom away immediately.
Wash the penis with soap and water before post-sex intimacy.

If the condom breaks during intercourse:

Pull out quickly and replace it. Men should be able to tell if a condom breaks during intercourse. To learn what it feels like, men should purposely break a condom while masturbating.
If semen leaks out during intercourse and the insertive partner is HIV positive (or his HIV status is not known), contact a healthcare provider or hospital emergency room to discuss the risk and the possibility of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

PEP involves a 28-day course of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs that needs to be started within 72 hours of possible exposure to the virus. Generally speaking, only people who have had a high-risk situation (e.g., condomless receptive anal or vaginal intercourse with someone known to be HIV positive) are considered to be good candidates for PEP.


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Last Revised: August 17, 2012

This content is written by the POZ and AIDSmeds editorial team. For more information, please visit our "About Us" page.

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