Updated 20 October 2016

The facts about condoms

Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is on a mission to educate the youth on the significance of condom use, which will be promoted in 2015’s commemoration of International Condom Day.


With events taking place in 36 countries where AHF has operations, the objective is to remind youth that Condoms are Cool and create effective conversations around this safe sexual practice. 

AHF answers some of the most commonly asked questions on condom use:
What is International Condom Day (ICD)?

ICD is one of AHF’s annual HIV prevention initiatives. Condom use is an essential part of modern romance so ICD is scheduled to coincide with Valentine’s Day in order remind people that love and romance, sex appeal and attraction go hand in hand with trust and protection.

Why do you choose to climax all your annual condom promotion activities on 13 February?

Around Valentines’ Day, lovers’ day, we remind all lovers that condoms are cool! AHF has two condom brands LOVE™ and ICON™. Both are high quality and both are free to the public. What better day than the day before Valentine’s day to remind people that if you love someone, you should love them safely!

What do you intend to achieve on this day?

We hope to increase public awareness on safer sex and its benefits, promote condom use and educate the public on the proper use of condoms.

So, why are you promoting condom use?

The fact is that using a condom makes sex 10,000 times safer than not using a condom. Some studies have also shown that condom-use prolongs erections, debunking the myth that condoms reduce sexual pleasure.

Why are we seeing such a declining trend in condom use?

There could be a couple reasons at policy level and individual levels:

At a South African policy level, government committed to introducing new, high-quality, well-packaged condoms early in 2014 after studies showed that public confidence in CHOICE condoms was low. These new generation government condoms are yet to be introduced.

At the individual level condoms remain unsexy. Many men won’t use them because they believe they reduce sexual pleasure and many women are afraid to ask their partners to use them for fear of being called a slut and possibly facing violence.
Are condoms really effective?

If used correctly and consistently, condoms are highly effective. They act as a barrier to prevent partners coming into contact with each other's sexual secretions.

Read: What is HIV/Aids?

I am told that some condoms burst during intercourse. What may cause condoms to burst?

Condom bursting may be due to:

•    Friction caused by lack of foreplay
•    Incorrect use such as failure to squeeze the air out of the tip when putting the condom on to create space for the semen
•    Using the wrong lubrication, i.e. Vaseline or other oil-based products, which weakens the latex

Is it necessary to use condoms when one is HIV positive?

•    Yes, even when both the partners are infected, to avoid re-infection. Everyone’s virus is slightly different, using people's own DNA to replicate. Re-infection adds strain on the immune system, weakening it.
•    If one partner is negative and the other positive, it is important to maintain condom use to ensure that the HIV negative partner does not contract the virus.

Why do some people develop irritations when they use condoms?

Some people are allergic to the latex from which condoms are made. However, in circumstances where irritation continues seek medical attention or access condoms which are made of other materials such as polyurethane (plastic)
What should you do if a condom remains in a woman’s vagina after sex?

You can avoid this situation by withdrawing immediately after ejaculating, before the penis becomes flaccid. If it does happen, don’t panic. Ask the person to squat with knees wide apart, insert two fingers and pull out the condom. Don’t worry; it will not affect your partner’s health. You or your partner can remove it easily with your fingers.

Does using two condoms at the same time provide double protection?

No. One condom if used correctly is enough to provide you with adequate protection.
Does using both a male and female condom at the same time provide more protection?

No. A couple can decide to use either a male or female condom but not both at the same time. The friction between the two rubber surfaces can lead to damage

Is it okay to apply Vaseline on a condom for lubrication?

No. Vaseline and other oil-based lubricants such as baby oil weaken the rubber and cause the condom to tear.

Read: Men on new HIV preventative drug ditching condoms

Can a condom be ineffective before its expiry date?

Yes. Depending on how it is handled/ stored, a condom can lose its effectiveness before the expiry date if stored in hot or damp place or exposed to direct sunlight. Make sure you don’t keep condoms in your wallet.

Can an expired condom offer protection if doubled?

No. Condoms will have lost their measured effectiveness three years from the stipulated date of manufacture.

Do condoms cause cancer?

No. There is no scientific evidence linking cancer to condom use.

Can one condom be used more than once?

No. A condom should be used once and disposed of.

Can a condom fit small and big penis sizes?

Yes. A condom has the capacity to expand and fit all sizes for adult sexually active persons. Men with large penises might find larger condoms more comfortable and ICON™ condoms were specially developed to ensure that even very well-endowed men can enjoy very sexy safer-sex in comfort.

For how long can one condom be used in a sexual intercourse?

A condom remains effective for one round of sex.
Can one get infected with STIs/HIV during the process of removing a condom after a sexual intercourse?

It is possible for infection to occur if you have wounds or sores on your fingers which might come into contact with sexual fluids or if one cleaning cloth is used for both partners.

Read: Birth control shot may boost HIV risk

Is true that some people get infected with STIs in spite of using condoms consistently?

Using a condom correctly and consistently protects from most sexually transmitted infections. It is possible to be infected during other sex acts such as oral sex. You can also be infected with some STIs through contact with infected blood.

What should a person do when a partner objects to condom use?

Ideally, be assertive and say “No condom no sex!” Try to educate your partner on the great benefits of condom use, such as prolonged erection.

Should married couples also use condoms?

Yes for several reasons. People may not be aware of each other’s HIV status; one of the partners might be cheating; condom usage is encourage in couples that are sero-discordant and condoms are also an excellent form of birth control for couples choose to space out their pregnancies.
Why do some condoms have a bad smell?

The bad smell may be due to chemical compounds which were not washed out during the production process, some condoms have a rubber-related smell unless they are scented.
Which is the best condom to use?

Which is the best soap to use if you need to get clean? ALL condoms distributed by the Department of Health and HIV organisations are effective. Make sure they have not expired by checking the date stamp before use. There are lots of brands available so try a few to work out which ones you prefer.

Do condoms make sex less pleasurable?

No. In fact many people report feeling freer and more relaxed during sex because they aren’t worrying about infection. There is also the added benefit of prolonged erection for many men. Used properly and consistently, condoms can actually increase sexual pleasure.

Read More:

New test can identify both HIV and hepatitis

Food-safety principles for people with HIV

5 myths about HIV/Aids


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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria before working for an HIV/AIDS NPO in Soweto for many years. She was named one of the Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2012.

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