Condoms are the best tool to help prevent HIV. They can also protect against other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like gonorrhea and chlamydia.
When used correctly, condoms can reduce the risk of contracting and transmitting HIV by more than 70 percent. They can work well alongside PrEP, an oral medication that prevents HIV infection.
1. Latex Condoms
Latex condoms are widely available and offer a high level of protection against STDs, including HIV. Lab studies show that they create an essentially impermeable barrier for particles the size of most HIV pathogens. But epidemiological data show that condoms provide a much lower level of protection than lab tests suggest, in part because people don’t always use them consistently or correctly during sex.
Theoretical basis for protection: Latex condoms cover the penis and block sperm from touching genital sores/ulcers and mucosal surfaces/secretions, which is how HIV is usually transmitted. Consistent and correct use of latex condoms can also reduce transmission of other STIs, such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis.
Non-latex condoms are made from materials such as polyurethane, polyisoprene, and synthetic rubber, and are an option if you are allergic to latex. They have a similar pleasure factor to latex and may feel more natural during intercourse than other types of condoms, but they don’t prevent STIs as well as latex. And like all condoms, they can break. So be sure to use the right sized condom and check the expiration date.
2. Water-Based Lubricants
Condoms are the best way to help reduce your risk of getting HIV. They protect your genitals from being exposed to bodily fluids that may contain HIV, and they can help prevent pregnancy and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Laboratory studies show that the materials used to make most condoms (latex, nitrile, polyurethane and polyisoprene) don’t let HIV pass through them. The consistent and correct use of external (sometimes called male) condoms and internal (sometimes called female) condoms with a water-based lubricant is the most effective strategy for preventing HIV transmission.
Researchers tested a number of over-the-counter and mail-order lubricants to find the safest for use with condoms. Good Clean Love and PRE were the least harmful to epithelial tissue, while Gynol II and KY Jelly caused more damage. All of the lubes were less toxic than nonoxynol-9, which was found to cause the most irritation. Water-based lubes are also long-lasting, while silicone-based lubes are more likely to break down over time. All lubes should be stored in a cool, dry place when not being used.
3. Polyurethane Condoms
Condoms can help reduce the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) like HIV when used correctly. Several types of condoms are available to protect against these problems, including those made of latex, natural rubber, polyurethane, or plastic. The most common type of condom is a lubricated latex one, which provides extra sensitivity and helps ensure that the condom stays in place during sex.
A less commonly known option is a plastic condom, which has similar qualities to a latex one but does not contain any latex. This type of condom is better suited for men with average or girthier penises. Both types of condoms are effective in reducing the risk of pregnancy and STI transmission when they are used correctly.
Another option is a nitrile or polyurethane internal condom, which has an outer flexible nitrile sheath and an inner ring that goes inside the front of your anus or vagina before sex. These condoms are reusable and work well with many lubricants. They also provide more thorough lubrication than a male condom and can reduce the likelihood of gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomonas infections.
4. Natural Rubber Condoms
A natural rubber condom is similar to a latex condom, except it’s made from a material that has no known risk of causing an allergic reaction. It is a very effective barrier to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) during sex. There are two main types of condoms: external and internal.
External condoms are worn over the penis during sex. They are available in different widths and lengths to ensure a snug fit, and they should be stored away from heat and friction so that they don’t damage or break.
Internal condoms are thin sheaths that are inserted into the vagina before sex. They have a flexible ring at each end, and they can be used by both men and women. They’re also available in a variety of colors and textures, and they can be lubricated with either water or silicone.
Some brands of internal condoms have pouches at the tip that move back and forth during sex for added pleasure. These are available from ONE, which also makes anal sex condoms. Both styles are latex-free and hormone-free, and they contain no glycerin, spermicide, or gluten.
5. Plastic Condoms
In addition to preventing pregnancy, condoms can also prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. But they only work if they’re used correctly and consistently. That includes checking for trapped air (which can make the condom slip or break during sex), and ensuring that the condom fits properly and isn’t too big or too small.
Non-latex condoms like the SKYN brand are easy to find in drugstores and offer excellent protection against both pregnancy and STIs. They’re made with polyisoprene, a synthetic rubber that offers the same protection as latex. Plus, they’re not processed in the same factories as latex products, so there’s zero chance of a latex reaction.
Another non-latex option is the polyurethane condom, which is a plastic that’s safe for latex-sensitive people and doesn’t interfere with oil-based lubricants. However, it’s less flexible than latex condoms and may not be as comfortable or sensitive for some peeps. It’s also not as effective as latex or polyisoprene condoms against STI transmission.