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Common Health Questions

NHS Choices - Do condoms always prevent HIV transmission?

Do condoms always prevent HIV transmission?

When used correctly every time you have sex, condoms are the best way to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as HIV.

They have a very low failure rate and are effective for all forms of sex, including oral and anal sex.

Condoms are classed as medical devices so therefore must meet essential requirements and go through quality tests.

Always check the expiry date of the condom, and choose condoms that carry the BSI kite mark and the European CE mark. These are recognised safety standards.

Condoms are most effective when used properly, which includes using one that is the right size. Condoms come in different widths and lengths, so it may take a while to find the right condom.

Here are some basic things you can do to make sure you’re using a condom properly:

  • use a new condom each time you have sex
  • put the condom on as soon as an erection occurs and before any sexual contact (whether vaginal, anal or oral)
  • avoid using an oil-based lubricant, such as Vaseline or baby oil, which can weaken the condom and increase the chances of it splitting – water-based lubricants are best and can be bought at most supermarkets or pharmacies
  • the man should withdraw from his partner immediately after ejaculating, holding the condom firmly to keep it from slipping off

Read more information about how to use a condom correctly.

Female condom

The female condom is a thin plastic pouch with flexible rings at either end. The condom is inserted into the vagina before sex to prevent pregnancy and STIs.

Read more information about the female condom.

Further information