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Condom 101: Understanding why, when and how to use condoms

Tuesday 14 February 2017

A bunch of flowers, a love heart and a condom hanging from a string.
Condoms are the only way to protect you and your partner from STIs. Is it worth the risk to go without?

While statistics show that condom usage is going up in Australia (high fives all round!) so are rates of some STIs like chlamydia. Knowing how, when and why you should use a condom will help protect you and your partners from getting STIs.

Why should I use a condom?

Condoms are the only way to protect yourself and your partner from STIs. As a bonus, they can also prevent unwanted pregnancies.

You can think that you don’t have an STI and still have one, because you often won’t have symptoms. The same goes for your partner. Unless you have both had a sexual health check since the last time you had sex, having unprotected sex could leave you vulnerable to getting an STI.

If untreated, STIs can cause long term health consequences like pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility. Is it really worth the risk?

When should I use a condom?

Condoms should be used every time you have sex. That includes vaginal sex, anal sex and oral sex. Use a new condom every time you have sex or change from having one type of sex to another.

Always use a condom if:

  • you are unsure of your partner’s sexual history
  • you think you or your partner might have an STI

If you decide to have unprotected sex, you and your partner should make sure you both get a sexual health check beforehand so you know you're all clear.

People putting a condom on a banana.

How do I use a condom?

We made this guide to show you exactly how to use a condom. Watch it, or follow the steps below:

  • check the expiry date on your condom packet (expired condoms might not work)
  • tear open the packet carefully
  • pinch the tip of the condom
  • roll it onto the erect penis
  • after ejaculation, hold the base of the condom and pull it off
  • finally, tie a knot in the condom and throw it away (but don’t flush them down the loo or drain: it’s bad for the environment and might end up in an embarrassing plumbing mishap).

If you and your partner want to, you can put lube on the outside of the condom. Only use water based lubricants on condoms.

Where can I get condoms?

You can get them from supermarkets, convenience stores, petrol stations, chemists and vending machines in places like public toilets and nightclubs.

These days, there are a wide variety of condoms available. They come in different sizes, textures, flavours and colours, can be lubricated or not, and can be made from latex or non-latex.

I’ve had unprotected sex, what should I do?

It’s time for you to get a sexual health check! If you’re sexually active, it’s recommended that you have a sexual health check at least once a year, and more often if you have unprotected sex or change partners.

Remember that not all STIs will give you symptoms, so you should get a check even if you don’t think anything is wrong. Most STIs are easy to test for and can be treated with a single dose of antibiotics.

You can ask for STI testing from your GP, Aboriginal Medical Services, sexual health services and some community-based testing sites. You can also order a free chlamydia test kit online.

If you have contracted an STI, you should tell any current and past sexual partners, so that they can be checked as well. This can certainly be a scary conversation to have with a partner but it’s an important one to help protect them and any of their future partners.

You can do this yourself, or use services like Let Them Know, The Drama Down Under or Better to Know to pass on the information anonymously. Talk to your doctor about who you need to tell and how to tell them, or read the Queensland Government guidelines on finding out who you need to contact.

Last updated: 30 November 2017