A project of the New Mexico AIDS Education and Training Center. Partially funded by the National Library of Medicine
Fact Sheets can be downloaded from the Internet at http://www.aidsinfonet.org
AIDS InfoNet www.aidsinfonet.org
Fact Sheet Number 153
WHAT ARE CONDOMS?
A condom is a tube made of thin, flexible
material. It is closed at one end. Condoms
have been used for hundreds of years to
prevent pregnancy by keeping a man’s
semen out of a woman’s vagina. Condoms
also help prevent diseases that are spread
by semen or by contact with infected sores
in the genital area, including HIV. Most
condoms go over a man’s penis. A new
type of condom was designed to fit into a
woman’s vagina. This “female” condom can
also be used to protect the rectum.
WHAT ARE THEY MADE OF?
Condoms used to be made of natural skin
(including lambskin) or of rubber. That’s
why they are called “rubbers.” Most
condoms today are latex or polyurethane.
Lambskin condoms can prevent pregnancy.
However, they have tiny holes (pores) that
are large enough for HIV to get through.
Lambskin condoms do not prevent the
spread of HIV.
Latex is the most common material for
condoms. Viruses cannot get through it.
Latex is inexpensive and available in many
styles. It has two drawbacks: oils make it
fall apart, and some people are allergic to it.
Polyurethane is an option for people who
are allergic to latex. One brand of female
condom and one brand of male condom are
made of polyurethane.
HOW ARE CONDOMS USED?
Condoms can protect you during contact
between the penis, mouth, vagina, or
rectum. Condoms won’t protect you from
HIV or other infections unless you use them
• Store condoms away from too much heat,
cold, or friction. Do not keep them in a
wallet or a car glove compartment.
• Check the expiration date. Don’t use
• Don’t open a condom package with your
teeth. Be careful that your fingernails or
jewelry don’t tear t