Print this page    •   Back to Web version of article

Condoms and HIV Prevention


I care . . . Do you?

"I care . . . Do you?" is the slogan for the second year of a two-year campaign intended to create a sustained focus on the role of men in the AIDS epidemic.

Key Messages


As a result of increasing awareness about AIDS and STIs, many people in longer-term relationships are changing their sexual behavior. Some people are abstaining from sex until after they are married; many have decided to remain faithful to their partners, and others have started using condoms regularly and consistently for protection. However, large numbers of people have yet to adopt safer sexual behavior through correct condom use. The spread of AIDS would be slowed if more people used condoms.

It is estimated that between 6 and 9 billion condoms are distributed around the world every year. Since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, condom distribution has greatly increased. In most urban areas, and in many rural communities, men and women can obtain good-quality condoms free or at low, subsidized prices. However, recent analyses of condom use for HIV prevention in developing countries show that there is a growing but unmet demand for male and female condoms. In other words, the world's population of sexually active men and women needs more condoms.

Quality-assured male latex condoms, when properly used, are a proven, effective means of preventing the sexual transmission of HIV, some other STIs and pregnancy. Male latex condoms cannot be used with oil-based lubricants because such lubricants can weaken the condom, causing it to break. Male condoms are inexpensive, highly reliable, life-saving devices with no side effects. However, for many people, access to male condoms is difficult and, although condoms are relatively inexpensive, the cost is still prohibitive for low-income groups.

Condoms made especially for women (female condoms), are made of polyurethane and can therefore be used with both oil- and water-based lubricants. However, they are more expensive than male latex condoms. They are now available to a small number of people in some 70 countries. Studies have shown that they are well accepted by both men and women. The female condom is designed to give women more control over condom use. It also offers protection against HIV infection, other STIs and unwanted pregnancy. One of the great drawbacks with the female condom (apart from the fact that it is not readily available everywhere) is that it is costly. The subsidized price varies from country to country but is generally around US$1.

Just because a condom's price is low, or the condom is given away free, it does not necessarily mean that it is of lower quality than a condom sold in a pharmacy, shop or market. Nor is high price in itself a guarantee of quality. The important thing to look for is a guarantee of quality from the distributor. Many developing countries manufacture excellent inexpensive condoms.


Obstacles to effective and widespread condom use include:

Ideas for Action

This article was provided by UNAIDS. It is a part of the publication World AIDS Campaign 2001. You can find this article online by typing this address into your Web browser:

General Disclaimer: is designed for educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice or professional services. The information provided through should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, consult your health care provider.