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Talking About Condoms

Condoms, when correctly and consistently used, help to make sex safer. They help to protect against sexually transmitted infections including HIV, the virus which causes AIDS, and against unintended pregnancy.

They’re available in all sorts of colours, shapes, flavours, textures and sizes. The range and choice can make them fun to use.

It is vital to use one properly every time you have sex.

Where to get condoms
Condoms can be available free to anyone – male or female. Availability can vary from one area to another.
The following types of organisations may supply free condoms:

Family planning clinics
Brook Centres
NHS sexual health (GUM) clinics
Young people’s clinics if you are under 25
Gay pubs and clubs
You can also buy condoms from:

Pharmacists and drug-stores
Petrol stations
Record shops
Vending machines in men’s and women’s toilets
Mail-order catalogues
Most shops are self-service so you don’t have to ask.

Using condoms
Getting used to condoms can take practice. They may seem a bit of a nuisance at first, but once they have become part of your sex life, you should feel more comfortable with them.

Lubricants and spermicide
Lubricants – most condoms are already lubricated but some people find that using extra lubricant can improve sex and help prevent the condom tearing. You can buy lubricant in tubes and tubs from chemists and supermarkets but remember:

Only use water-based lubricants (such as KY jelly, Clinigel, Sensel or Boots lubricating jelly) on latex condoms
Never use oil-based lubricants such as baby oil as they will damage the condom and make it unsafe
For anal sex use plenty of lubricant with a stronger make of condom
Many condoms already have spermicide on them and this will be stated on the packet. You can also buy spermicide separately from the chemist in the form of foams, creams, pessaries or gels. Some people find that spermicide causes an allergic reaction so they choose condoms without spermicide.

New polyurethane condoms
There is a new type of condom, the ´Avanti´ which is made of very thin plastic. They are thinner than latex condoms and are said to increase sensitivity and they currently cost three times more. The ´Avanti´ comes with the CE mark but it is not kitemarked. Failure rates are about the same as for other condoms but there have been no tests on the use of ´Avanti´ for anal sex.

Female condom
The female condom lines the vagina. It has two rings to keep it in place. Staff at a family planning clinic can show you how to fit and use the female condom properly. The female condom:

Fits inside the vagina
Protects against sexually transmitted infections (including HIV) and pregnancy
Is made from thin polyurethane and lubricated with a spermicide free lubricant
Can be put in any time before sex
Isn’t known to cause allergic reactions
It is preferred by some women as they feel it gives them more control
Is preferred by some men because it feels good and they don’t like the male condom .

Condom tips

Always choose condoms that carry the European CE mark or the BSI Kitemark
Always put the condom on well before you start to have penetrative sex. (where the penis enters the vagina, mouth or anus)
Use a new condom every time
Never use two condoms together
Heat can damage condoms – store in a cool, dry place
Check the expiry date – condoms don’t last for ever
Buy condoms before going on holiday to avoid problems with language and availability
For anal sex always use a stronger condom and plenty of water based lubricant such as KY jelly, Clinigel, Sensel or Boots lubricating jelly
For oral sex using a condom can protect against many sexually transmitted infections
When is it safe to stop using condoms?
It’s safest to carry on using condoms until all the following apply:

You or your partner are absolutely sure you don’t have HIV. You may want to consider having an HIV test.
You are certain neither of you has any other sexually transmitted infection so you may want to have a check up at an NHS sexual health (GUM) clinic
Both of you are sure you won’t have unprotected sex with anyone else
Your are both sure you won’t share drug-injecting equipment with anyone
For more information call the Sexual Health and National AIDS Helpline free (in the UK) on 0800 567 123 or phone your local NHS sexual health clinic.

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