Here you will learn how to use a male (external) condom correctly to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, while enjoying sex. A condom will also protect you from unwanted pregnancy if you have vaginal sex. You can also have a look at our page on the internal (female) condom, where you will find information on its use.

What is the male condom?

The male condom is a thin piece of latex that, used correctly during sex (anal, oral, or vaginal), prevents some sexually transmitted infections, including HIV (or an unwanted pregnancy). This creates a barrier that prevents fluids from entering the body.

Most male condoms are made of latex. If you’re allergic to it, you can find polyurethane or polyisoprene condoms, or try internal condoms, which are hypoallergenic and don’t irritate the skin.

How does a male condom work?

Sexual fluids (such as semen, anal discharge, and vaginal discharge) and blood can transmit HIV and other STIs. Condoms act as a barrier between these fluids and the entry points into the body, such as:

  • anus
  • the penis (mainly the urethra)
  • vagina
  • the mouth (especially if there are open sores or bleeding gums).

Although some STIs can also be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact (e.g. genital warts), condoms also reduce the risk of many of these infections.

By using condoms, you can relax and enjoy sex both you and your partner, knowing that you are protected.

When should I use a condom?

You can use a condom to protect yourself and your partner from HIV and other STIs:

  • during anal, oral, or vaginal sex
  • every time you have sex
  • when you use sex toys (put a new condom for each partner).

Putting the condom on before any contact between your penis and your partner’s genital area or mouth lowers the risks for both of you.

How to use a condom correctly?

You’ll also find instructions on or inside the condom packet, but here are all the steps:

  1. Check the packaging for damage and CE or ISO marking.
  2. Check the expiry date – if it’s expired, it may break or cause irritation.
  3. Check the air cushion – all condoms have air inside the individual packaging. If this is missing, the packaging may be punctured/perforated.
  4. Open the package using the marked areas – the penis must be erect.
  5. Push the condom out of the package and try to touch it as little as possible.
  6. Check the rolling ring – it should be on the outside.
  7. Hold the reservoir and roll the condom down to the base of the penis.
  8. After ejaculation has taken place, withdraw the penis, taking care that the condom does not remain inside the anus/vagina.
  9. The condom is pulled out of the reservoir (the top part) and carefully unrolled, making sure that no semen (if any) leaks out.
  10. The condom is knotted, placed together with the packaging in a napkin and thrown in the bin.

Always use a new condom if you have sex again or if you switch from anal to vaginal or oral sex. This is important because many infections can be passed from the anus to the vagina or mouth.

It’s best to buy condoms from places where you can be sure they have been kept in proper condition!

Tips for condom use

Make it part of the “fun”

Make putting on the condom a fun part of foreplay – keep touching and kissing as you put it on – you can also ask your partner to put it on.

Don’t double

Using two condoms at once (or a female and male condom at the same time) doesn’t give you double protection – in fact, because of the friction, it’s more likely to break or slip off. One is enough!


It’s a good idea to practice putting on a condom a few times before you find yourself in a situation where you’re about to have sex. This will help you feel more confident about having sex and get used to the feel of the condom.


We like lube because:

  • because of it, we feel more comfortable when we have the condom and the pleasure during sex is greater.
  • it reduces the risk of breaking the condom, especially during anal sex.

Put lubricant on the outside of the condom or in and around the anus or vagina. Don’t put lubricant inside the condom or on the naked penis, as this will make the condom slip off. Use a water-based or silicone lubricant designed for sex. Oil-based lubricants (such as Vaseline, massage oils or hand cream) can damage or break latex condoms.

Size matters

Condom sizes vary. You can try different sizes of condoms to find the best size for you or your partner. A good condom should roll down to the base of your penis and not be too tight. Ideally, you should feel comfortable when you put the condom on. It shouldn’t be too loose either, as there’s a danger of it slipping off during sex. Keep in mind that, just like buying clothes, you may need a different size depending on the brand.

But don’t worry, condoms are super stretchy, so you’re sure to find one that fits – it’s a myth that there are penises that are too big, for which condoms weren’t invented. However, if you can’t find a male condom you feel comfortable having sex with, you can try an internal/female condom for anal or vaginal sex.

Try different textures and flavours

The good news is that there is a wide variety of condoms. You have a choice of textures (dots or ridges can intensify the sensation for both partners), thicknesses, flavours (which can make oral sex more fun) and different colours – so try different options and find out which ones work for you and your partner.

If you’re allergic to latex, you can use latex-free, polyurethane or polyisoprene condoms. Internal/female condoms are latex-free, so you can try these too.

What should you do if the condom breaks?

Condoms rarely break, especially if used correctly. However, if the condom breaks or leaks or if something else goes wrong and the condom slips during sex, then there are a few simple things you can do:

  • withdraw the penis immediately
  • remove as much semen as you can
  • avoid washing in the anus/vagina as this can push semen/secretion in and cause irritation
  • if you have not used any other method of contraception, consider taking emergency contraception within 72 hours of sexual contact.

What should I do if the condom breaks and my partner is HIV-positive?

Your HIV-positive partner will be able to tell you if he or she is on regular treatment and has been undetectable for at least the last 6 months. If so, the risk of HIV transmission if the condom breaks is extremely low. However, both of you may decide to get tested for other STIs.

If a condom breaks and your HIV-positive partner is not on regular treatment, or if you’re not sure how well they’ve taken it, you’ll need to see a doctor as soon as possible (within 72 hours). You may receive Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP): a month-long treatment with antiretroviral (ARV) drugs that reduces the chances of HIV infection.

PEP has a high success rate; however, it is not a replacement for condoms. PEP is a powerful drug that has side effects and is not an option available to everyone.

If you are in a relationship with someone living with HIV, using Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) may be another option to protect yourself against the risk of HIV transmission. However, it won’t protect you from other STIs or unwanted pregnancy.

How do I talk about condoms with my partner?

Some people feel uncomfortable bringing up the subject of condom use, especially in the early stages of a relationship. But protecting yourself and your partner should be a priority for both of you. If your partner refuses to use a condom, don’t feel pressured to have unprotected sex – remember that you always have the right to decide whether you want to have sex or not.

Talking about condoms with your partner doesn’t mean you don’t trust them – it’s a useful discussion for them and for you. If you both know you’re safe, then you’ll be more relaxed and sex will be more enjoyable.

At Checkpoint ARAS you can get condoms for free.