Regular condom use should be considered in conjunction with other methods of prevention to protect you from HIV and STIs

Are condoms effective?

When used correctly and consistently condoms are an extremely effective method of preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Condoms work as they stop the passing of fluids from one partner to the other.

There are two types of condoms: male condoms, worn on the penis; and female condoms, worn inside the vagina. This page is about male condoms.

Do I still need condoms while on PrEP?

Whether you decide to continue using condoms after starting PrEP is ultimately a personal decision. However, it is important to be aware that:

  • Condoms are effective at preventing HIV and other STIs.
  • PrEP only prevents HIV and will not protect you from other STIs.

For some, a combination of PrEP and condom use works best due to the combined protection against HIV and STIs. However, it is worth noting that some STIs are transmitted orally (for more information on STIs click here) and condom use will not be effective for some sexual activities. This is why regular testing is also important, alongside PrEP and condom use.

Where to get condoms

Most sexual health (GUM) clinics, many youth services and some GP practices can provide condoms free of charge. However, due the Covid-19 pandemic, it is advised you call your local clinic or GP practice before turning up in person.

You can purchase your own supply of low-cost, high quality condoms from Freedoms, our trusted NHS supplier. Of course, you can also buy condoms at the supermarket, at your high street chemist, as well as at many newsagents and 24-hour petrol stations.


Gay and bisexual men living in London are eligible for our Do It London free home condom delivery service. To access this service see our Online Service Offer page.

Find a sexual health clinic near you

Find out more about sexual health services

Find out more about STIs

How to get low-cost condoms

Frequently Asked Questions

Recent evidence from Public Health England shows that in recent years there have been steep rises in some STIs in some groups, particularly men who have sex with men (MSM) and young (16-25 year old) heterosexuals. Read the latest data on STIs.

You can protect yourself and your partner from HIV and other STIs by making sure that exposure does not occur – and by reducing the chance of HIV or STI transmission to yourself or your partner if exposure does occur.

Condoms are a cheap, easy and effective way to protect against HIV and STIs.

Biomedical prevention methods are also highly effective against HIV. These biomedical methods include PrEP, PEP and Undetectable.

You should only use condoms which carry a British Standard kitemark or CE mark and which are within their expiry date.

The human body varies widely – and because of this variety condom manufacturers have created a huge range of different types of condom to suit individual size, shape and sensitivity. So shop around until you find the kind that fits you best.

Some people have a latex (rubber) allergy. For those people, non-latex condoms, like Durex Avanti, Mates Skyn and Pasante Unique should be used.

For men who have problems with condoms, such as loss of sensitivity, or premature ejaculation, there are products on the market to help with this. Extra thin condoms are available from most shops and online. Some outlets also sell ‘delaying’ condoms which can help with premature ejaculation.

This video and the step by step instructions below explain how to use a condom correctly:

  1. Remove the condom from the wrapper carefully using your fingers – do not use your teeth to open the packet as you could damage the condom before you use it.
  2. Squeeze the air out of the teat on the tip of the condom and place it over the erect penis.
  3. Roll the condom down the length of the erect penis to the base of the shaft (near your pubic hair).
  4. If necessary, apply some water-or-silicone-based lubricant over your condom-covered penis. This is especially important for anal sex as the anus is not self-lubricating, whereas vaginal fluid does provide lubrication during sex.
  5. Be sure to check the condom occasionally during intercourse, to ensure it is still intact and hasn’t split.
  6. After ejaculation, pull out whilst holding on to the base of the condom, so that you don’t leave it behind. Be sure to pull out before your penis becomes soft.
  7. Remove the condom carefully and wrap it inside tissue. Dispose of it in the bin – don’t flush it down the toilet to protect the environment.
  8. Wash your hands (and your penis) to be sure you do not have any body fluids on your hands and further reduce the risk of STI transmission.

Lubricating a condom is especially important for anal sex (the anus is not self-lubricating) and in vaginal sex (if the female partner has vaginal dryness).

If you don’t use enough lubricant, or use the wrong kind, it can increase the risk of “condom failure”. This makes transmission of HIV and other STIs possible.

You should only use water-based lubes (for example K-Y Jelly, Liquid Silk and ID Glide) and silicone-based lubes (Eros Bodyglide and Skyn Max) with latex condoms.

Using oil-based lubricants such as Vaseline, cooking oil, moisturiser, sun cream, baby oil or butter is very risky as these products damage condoms and can cause them to break. However, oil-based lubricants can be used ONLY with non-latex condoms such as Durex Avanti, Mates Skyn or Pasante Unique.

One last thing: don’t rely on saliva to lubricate your condom as it dries quickly, and your condom could tear easily.