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Prevent & Protect

Prevent & Protect

    How effective are condoms at preventing HIV transmission?
    How effective are condoms at preventing HIV transmission?

    Prevent and ProtectAccording to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), male latex condoms are highly effective when used consistently and correctly, in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV and many other STDs. Condoms are also the only method of protection that prevent both pregnancy and disease.

    Check the label of the condom before using and don’t use it if it is past the labeled expiration date or if it is over five years past the manufacture date. Also, if the condom is ripped or looks dry, brittle, stiff, or sticky, it also shouldn’t be used. Keeping a few spares on hand is a good idea in case one rips while being opened or put on.

    Condoms should be kept in a cool, dry place to prevent breakage or leakage. 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 on a regular basis.

    What’s the best kind of condom to use?
    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 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.

    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, reduce or eliminate the condom’s effectiveness.

    Is a lubricant important?
    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, reduce or eliminate the condom’s effectiveness.

    How do you put a condom on correctly?
    The condom should be put on before any genital (skin-to-skin) contact. Some STDs can be transmitted without intercourse, through genital 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.

    What’s the best way to remove a used condom?
    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).

    In addition to condoms, how else can I reduce the risk of HIV transmission?

    There are several ways to reduce risk of getting or passing HIV. These include:

    • Condoms: Use condoms. When used consistently and correctly, condoms are highly effective in protecting against HIV, as well as many other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Female condoms are another highly-effective tool specially designed for women to prevent HIV and many other STDs. Like male condoms, female condoms are a barrier method of protection. Female condoms are inserted into the vagina. Some women like female condoms because it puts them more in control over condom use.

    • PrEP: For added protection, talk with your health care provider about whether pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) is an option for you. PrEP is a once-daily pill, available by prescription, for people who do not have HIV that can reduce the risk of getting HIV by more than 90 percent.

    • Treatment as prevention: If you have HIV, establish a treatment plan. Not only can you improve your health with antiretroviral (ARV) treatment but you can also significantly reduce – by as much as 96 percent – the chances of passing the virus on to others.

    • Clean injection equipment: Never share needles, syringes or other drug preparation equipment. You can get clean needles from pharmacies or needle-exchange programs. Only use syringes that come from a reliable source. If you need help with addiction, find drug treatment programs near you using the HIV.gov locator.

    What is PrEP?

    PrEP, short for pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a once-daily pill, available by prescription for people who do not have HIV. PrEP has been found to be very effective at reducing risk of getting HIV. As of the writing of this information, the FDA has only approved one drug for use as PrEP, which is sold under the brand name Truvada.

     Learn more about PrEP. 

    How To Use Condoms

      Condom Fact Sheet

      Consistent and correct use of the male latex condom reduces the risk of sexually transmitted disease (STD) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission. However, condom use cannot provide absolute protection against any STD. The most reliable ways to avoid transmission of STDs are to abstain from sexual activity, or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner. However, many infected persons may be unaware of their infection because STDs often are asymptomatic and unrecognized.

      Condom effectiveness for STD and HIV prevention has been demonstrated by both laboratory and epidemiologic studies. Evidence of condom effectiveness is also based on theoretical and empirical data regarding the transmission of different STDs, the physical properties of condoms, and the anatomic coverage or protection provided by condoms.

      Laboratory studies have shown that latex condoms provide an effective barrier against even the smallest STD pathogens.

      Epidemiologic studies that compare rates of HIV infection between condom users and nonusers who have HIV-infected sex partners demonstrate that consistent condom use is highly effective in preventing transmission of HIV. Similarly, epidemiologic studies have shown that condom use reduces the risk of many other STDs. However, the exact magnitude of protection has been difficult to quantify because of numerous methodological challenges inherent in studying private behaviors that cannot be directly observed or measured.

      Theoretical and empirical basis for protection:
      Condoms can be expected to provide different levels of protection for various STDs, depending on differences in how the diseases or infections are transmitted. Male condoms may not cover all infected areas or areas that could become infected. Thus, they are likely to provide greater protection against STDs that are transmitted only by genital fluids (STDs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, and HIV infection) than against infections that are transmitted primarily by skin-to-skin contact, which may or may not infect areas covered by a condom (STDs such as genital herpes, human papillomavirus [HPV] infection, syphilis, and chancroid).

      Consistent and Correct Condom Use
      To achieve maximum protection by using condoms, they
      must be used consistently and correctly.

      The failure of condoms to protect against STD/HIV transmission usually results from inconsistent or incorrect use,
      rather than product failure.

      • Inconsistent or nonuse can lead to STD acquisition
        because transmission can occur with a single sex act with
        an infected partner.
      • Incorrect use diminishes the protective effect of condoms
        by leading to condom breakage, slippage, or leakage.
        Incorrect use more commonly entails a failure to use
        condoms throughout the entire sex act, from start (of
        sexual contact) to finish (after ejaculation).

      How to Use a Condom Consistently and Correctly

      • Use a new condom for every act of vaginal, anal and oral sex—throughout the entire sex act (from start to finish).
        Before any genital contact, put the condom on the tip of
        the erect penis with the rolled side out.

      • If the condom does not have a reservoir tip, 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 erect penis.
      • After ejaculation and before the penis gets soft, grip the rim
        of the condom and carefully withdraw. Then gently pull the
        condom off the penis, making sure that semen doesn’t spill
      • Wrap the condom in a tissue and throw it in the trash
        where others won’t handle it.
      • If you feel the condom break at any point during sexual
        activity, stop immediately, withdraw, remove the broken
        condom, and put on a new condom.
      • Ensure that adequate lubrication is used during vaginal and
        anal sex, which might require water-based lubricants.
        Oil-based lubricants (e.g., petroleum jelly, shortening,
        mineral oil, massage oils, body lotions, and cooking oil)
        should not be used because they can weaken latex, causing

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