Photo Credit: bwats2If you are having sex, condoms are the only method that provides protection against both unintended pregnancy and STDs!
Types of condoms. The most important thing when choosing a brand is that the condoms be made of latex or polyurethane (plastic). Both of these types of condoms are effective in preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Avoid using animal skin (or "natural") condoms, which prevent pregnancy but aren't as effective in preventing all STDs, including HIV. Also, while male condoms are more popular, female condoms, which are inserted into the vagina, are also an option when male condoms can't be used.
Making the purchase. You can buy condoms in lots of places: drugstores, grocery stores, convenience stores, dispensers in bathrooms, and so on. There are also online retailers, including specialty condom sites as well as online drug stores and groceries that can mail them to you. Testing centers and health clinics may have free condom supplies available as well. Remember: lots of people buy condoms every day; the only thing you can really tell about a person buying condoms is that they are taking responsibility for their health.
Inspecting the condom. Check the label and condom before using it. Don't use it if it is past the labeled expiration date. Also, if the condom is ripped or looks dry, brittle, stiff, or sticky, it shouldn't be used. Keeping a few spares on hand is a good idea in case one rips while being opened or you accidentally put it on the wrong way.
Handling condoms. Condoms should be kept in a cool, dry place to prevent breakage or leakage. To open the package, it should be torn gently on the side (not with teeth or scissors, which could tear the condom itself). Pull the condom out slowly (with care) to prevent ripping.
Choosing the right lubricant. Using a pre-lubricated condom, or applying a small amount of water-based lubricant inside and outside the condom can help prevent rips. Oil-based lubricants (for example petroleum jellies, body lotions, mineral or vegetable oils) should not be used with latex condoms because they can cause the latex to break down, reducing or eliminating the condom's effectiveness.
Putting on a condom correctly. The most common mistake is not using condoms from start (of sexual contact) to the end of sexual contact (after ejaculation). The condom should be put on before any genital contact. Some STDs can be transmitted without intercourse, through genital (skin-to-skin) contact. Also, pre-cum can contain semen and STDs (including HIV) so you need to wear a condom the whole time from beginning to end, each and every time.
Acknowledgement: This fact sheet was adapted from teensource.org, a website that provides education about health and wellness.