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Condoms & lubricants



Condoms are currently the best and most easily accessible method of preventing HIV- provided they are used consistently and correctly. They come in a variety of colours, shapes, sizes and there are male and female variants.

Condoms work because the HIV molecules are too big to pass through these materials.

Condoms are classified under the broad term contraceptives because they are effective at preventing pregnancy. However, most other contraceptives (such as the ‘the pill’) only help to prevent pregnancy and do not provide any protection from HIV.

Condoms prevent pregnancy AND protect from HIV and some STIs.

Because condoms tend to be strongly associated with avoiding pregnancy, they not always considered necessary for anal sex - an act both heterosexual and same-sex couples engage in.

The risk of contracting HIV during anal sex is actually much higher than vaginal sex. This makes condoms and lubrication essential for anal sex.


Male condoms
The condoms people are most familiar with are the ones men wear during sex.

These sheaths cover the entire shaft of the penis and act as a barrier method of protection, preventing contact between each of the partners bodily fluids.
The female condom

The FC was developed in the 1980s and is a flexible and soft tube with one open end. Female condoms can also be used for anal sex for men and women. The closed end is inserted into the vagina or anus.

The “femi-dom” has been praised for being the only form of female-initiated HIV prevention currently available. Female condoms have the potential to empower women in situations where their male partners refuse to wear a condom. But it is not widely used and is often hard to source.

Also see our section on Women and HIV


Some condom Dos and Don'ts

  • Male and female condoms should not be worn simultaneously during sexual intercourse. This is because the condoms will rub together creating friction which could cause the condom/s to tear or break.
  • Wearing two condoms if you are a male or a female will not make sex safer, but has the same result because the condom/s could be damaged.
  • Either the male or the female partner should wear a new condom every time they have sex, even if sex happens more than once within a short period of time.

It is essential that there is sufficient lubrication during sexual intercourse to minimise friction and prevent condoms from tearing and breaking.



It is important to use the correct lubricant depending on what the condom you are using is made out of.

This is because oil-based lubricants destroy natural latex, increasing the risk of the condom breaking or tearing. Always use water or silicone-based lubrication as most condoms are made out of latex.

Cooking or baby oil, vaseline and body lotion will destroy most condoms.

Condoms made out of polyurethane or nitrile can be used with either oil, water or silicone-based lubricants.


oil-based lube
water or silicone-based lube
latex condom
polyurethane condom
nitrile condom

Also See our our Myths & Misconceptions section for more information on condoms.


Last updated: 20 September 2011


Wits Journalism Anova Health

The project is jointly managed by the Anova Health Institute and the Journalism and Media Studies Programme at the University of the Witwatersrand. The project is funded by by the Health Communication Partnership based at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Centre for Communication Programmes and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief through the United States Agency for International Development under terms of Award No. JH/HESA-02-05 and through the Anova Health Institute through PEPFAR via USAID under Award No. AID-674-A-12-00015.