Do condoms always prevent HIV transmission?

When used correctly, 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 and therefore must meet essential requirements and go through quality tests.

Always check the expiry date of the condom and choose condoms that carry the European CE mark, which is a recognised safety standard. Do not use novelty condoms, as they are NOT safe.

Condoms are most effective when used properly and this 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 on the condom as soon as erection occurs and before any sexual contact (vaginal, anal or oral).
  • Avoid using an oil-based lubricant, such as Vaseline or baby oil. This can weaken the condom and increase the chances of it splitting. Water-based lubricants are best and can be bought at most supermarkets or pharmacists.
  • The man should withdraw from the partner immediately after ejaculating, holding the condom firmly to keep it from slipping off.

Further information:

STIs: who's got one?

You can't tell if someone's got an STI just by looking at them. Members of the public talk about using condoms.

Media last reviewed: 21/10/2013

Next review due: 21/10/2015

Page last reviewed: 18/03/2014

Next review due: 18/03/2016