So Many Condoms, So Little Time . . .

If you read pamphlets about HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, all you ever read is that you should use latex condoms. These days, going condom shopping is easier said than done. There are now five types of condoms on the market, and a whole slew of different types of latex condoms out there. It's really confusing. This article will go over five different types of condoms, how much they cost (something that's rarely discussed) and how much protection they offer.

Male Novelty Condoms

These are the edible or specialty condoms that you often see in sex shops, adult bookstores and in condom machines in bathrooms. They are NOT good for protection against HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or pregnancy. As their name implies, they're just for fun and for something different. These condoms are labeled "For Novelty Use Only." Be careful you don't buy these for protection against diseases.

Male Natural/Sheepskin Condoms

These are the really expensive ones ($30 or more for a dozen is not unusual). These are only good for protection against pregnancy, not against STDs (including HIV/AIDS). People prefer them because they "feel more natural." Unfortunately, for the high price, you won't get protected against diseases. You can use any type of lubricant (oil or water-based) with these condoms. By the way, unlike what the name implies, they're actually made out of lamb intestines, not sheepskin.

Male Latex Condoms

Male latex condoms are the most common types of condoms on the market. They cost about $6 to $20 a dozen, but cost can vary widely from brand to brand. Used consistently and correctly, these will protect you against HIV/AIDS, other STDs and pregnancy. Their drawbacks are their bad taste for oral sex (but see below for an alternative), and that you can only use water-based lubricants with them. Oil-based lubricants like hand lotion, Vaseline etc. can make a latex condom break. There's so many types of latex condoms out there (ribbed, flavored, extra sensitive, lubricated, unlubricated, etc.) that buying them can be real confusing. Any of these types of condoms should offer adequate protection. There are some people out there who are allergic to latex, who therefore cannot use latex condoms (but see below for an alternative). When most people think about condoms, latex condoms are what they think of.

Male Polyurethane (Plastic) Condoms

The main drawbacks to latex condoms are their bad taste, plus only water-based lubricants can be used with them (oil makes them fall apart). Some people are allergic to latex.

So what's the alternative? It's the polyurethane condom. This condom is sold under the brand name, "Avanti." It costs about $8 for six condoms (that comes out to $16 a dozen, twice the price of latex condoms).

The benefits of these condoms is that they can be used for people who are allergic to latex, and that they don't taste bad if you're using them for oral sex (yes, I have tasted them, and found they have no bad taste at all). These condoms can be used with any type of lubricant, oil or water-based.

Besides the high cost, it is still not known how much protection they will offer against HIV/AIDS and STDs. As long as they don't break or fall off, they should offer adequate protection, since HIV and other STDs will not pass through polyurethane. But studies are still being done to determine how often they break or fall off.

Female Polyurethane (Plastic) Condoms

The female condom is sold under the brand name, "Reality." These are only good for vaginal intercourse. Since they're made of polyurethane, you can use any type of lubricant with them, although they do come with their own lubricant. They cost $4 each, and are usually sold in packs of 3 (for $8). Like all other condoms, they're single use, so they're more expensive than latex male condoms. They have a higher failure rate than latex condoms, primarily since they're much more difficult to insert and to use. If you don't use enough lubricant, they can also make a squeaking noise when you use them. Getting women to use them can be VERY difficult. But they are an alternative to male condoms if a man refuses to use a condom during vaginal intercourse. Unlike other condoms, these cannot be used for anal intercourse.

Click here to read more about condoms.

Do you want more information on HIV/AIDS, STDs or safer sex? Contact the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Health Line hotline, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 1-800-232-4636, or visit The Body's Safe Sex and Prevention Forum.

Until next time . . . Work hard, play hard, play safe, stay sober!