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May 28, 1997


Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

The answer to this depends on the type of condom you are using.


If the condom is made out of latex, HIV will not pass through the condom. These condoms are effective for both birth control, and against Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD's), as long as they are used every time, and used correctly. One must use a water based lubricant when using these condoms. They are the most common type of condom used, and the most widely available. For more information about latex condoms, see the questions, "proper use of a condom / Information on how to use a condom"and "Real Effectiveness Condoms"


HIV and other STD's will not pass through polyurethane. Polyurethane condoms can be used for both birth control and protection against STD's. There is both a male and female version of condoms made of polyurethane. Presently, the male version of the polyurethane condom is only approved for use in persons who are allergic to latex, and who therefore cannot use latex condoms. We are still awaiting the results of clinical trials comparing the amount of protection offered by the male polyurethane condom, as compared to the male latex condom. But since HIV/STD's will not pass through polyurethane, as long as these condoms don't break and are used correctly, they should adequately protect a person against HIV/STD's, and unwanted pregnancies. A person can use any type of lubricant they want with polyurethane condoms (both oil and water based lubricants). Polyurethane condoms cost more than latex condoms, and are not nearly as available as latex condoms. For more information on the Female Condom specifically, see the question, "Female condom and HIV".


If the condom is a natural condom (also called a lambskin or sheepskin condom), HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD's) can pass through them. Natural condoms have microscopic holes in them that are large enough to allow viruses and bacteria to pass through. However, these holes are smaller than sperm cells, so sperm cells cannot pass through. Therefore, these condoms can be used for birth control, but NOT for prevention against HIV and other STD's. Any type of lubricant can be used with these condoms. These condoms are also much more expensive than latex or polyurethane condoms.

NOVELTY CONDOMS There are also condoms on the market called "Novelty" condoms. These are not to be used for protection against STD's or birth control. These are just for play, and will not protect you against HIV, other STD's, or pregnancy. These condoms are often labeled "For Novelty Use Only".

For more information about condoms (latex, polyurethane etc.), go to the "Previous Questions" page of this website, and scroll down to the "Prevention (Sexual)" area.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

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