Common Sense About AIDS ®
News you need to know about plastic condoms
Safe sex has met the space age: You can now use condoms made of
Why would you want to use plastic condoms, you ask? Here are a few
- Plastic condoms can be made much thinner than latex
condoms. Since they are thinner, some men think they feel better. A
common complaint men have about latex condoms is that they cut down
on the pleasure of having sex. They often say using a condom, or
"rubber," is like wearing a raincoat in the shower. But during tests
with new plastic condoms, three out of every four men who used one
said the new condoms felt good.
- Plastic condoms have a looser fit. Some men like condoms
that aren't as tight-fitting as latex condoms. They say looser
condoms feel better.
- Plastic is a very strong material, so plastic condoms may
not rip or tear as easily as latex condoms. Many couples complain
that condoms tear when they try to put them on, or that they break
during sex. They feel condoms are just not worth this trouble. Tests
comparing the durability of latex and plastic condoms are under way
- Plastic condoms can stand up to oil-based lubricants. One
of the main reasons latex condoms break is because couples use
oil-based lubricants like Vaseline, vegetable oil, mineral oil,
massage oil, or even butter to make the condom slide better. These
oils make latex condoms weak and they break more easily. Plastic
condoms are resistant to these effects.
- Plastic condoms can be kept longer without breaking down
in heat or cold. Another reason latex condoms break is because they
aren't stored correctly. Latex breaks down if it has been exposed to
heat or cold too long. Latex condoms also get weak if they have been
carried in a man's wallet too long (his body heat causes it to break
- People allergic or sensitive to latex can use plastic
condoms. Some people get a rash if their skin touches
latex. Some people have even stronger reactions; they break out in
hives or have trouble breathing if they touch latex. Only 1% to 2%
of Americans are thought to have such a serious allergy problem, but
many people say they get a rash from latex.
Not everyone will want to use new plastic condoms. Because they are
new, scientists don't know as much about plastic condoms as they do
about latex condoms. For example, they aren't sure how good plastic
condoms are at stopping pregnancy. Scientists also are not sure how
well plastic condoms can prevent the infections you can get from
The reason they don't know how well plastic condoms can prevent
pregnancy and infections is because not enough tests have been done
with people. Many tests have been done in their labs; these
tests show that no sperm or infectious germs can pass through the
plastic material. Still, lab tests don't give a complete picture of
what it's like to actually use condoms.
Another reason couples still may choose to use latex condoms is
because they cost less than the new plastic condoms. You can buy a
quality latex condom for about $1, but you will spend about $1.75 on a
One type of plastic condom for men you can buy at drugstores and
pharmacies is called Avanti. Other companies are working on plastic
condoms for men, so you should have more choices soon.
You can get a plastic condom for women called Reality. It is a
long, wide tube with one end open and one end closed. The closed end is
inserted into the vagina and stays put, while the open end hangs
outside the vagina. Reality has all the benefits of the plastic
condoms for men (listed earlier).
Avanti looks like a latex condom and you use it the same way. Here's
the right way to use a condom for me, whether it is Avanti or a latex
- Open the foil package.
- Look at the condom carefully, making sure the rolled edge is on
the outside, not the inside.
- Hold the condom at the tip. Squeeze out any air.
- Place the condom on the end of the penis, and unroll it as far
as you can. It's OK if the condom isn't unrolled all the way, as
long as it covers as much of the penis as possible.
- Check with your fingers during sex to make sure the condom isn't
- Withdraw slowly immediately after climaxing (ejaculation),
holding the condom firmly by the rim at the base. The reason you
need to withdraw while holding the condom at the base is because
sperm can still get out over the rim of the condom and cause
pregnancy or infection.
- Remove the condom from the penis, holding it away from your
partner's body. Wrap it in tissue and throw it away. Do not flush
condoms down the toilet. Never reuse a condom.
Test your knowledge about condoms
Don't feel bad if you don't know how to use condoms. Many people don't
understand all there is to know about them. To test your condom I.Q.,
take this quick true/false quiz.
- Condoms can keep me safe from HIV (AIDS) and other sexually
- A man can safely use a condom he has kept in his wallet, as long
as the expiration date on the package hasn't passed.
- We can safely use massage oil on the condom to make it glide
- A man can wait as long as he wants before withdrawing after sex,
as long as he holds the condom at the base to prevent spills.
- Condoms with spermicide work just as well as condoms without
- Many people don't know how to use condoms.
- This statement is only TRUE if you use condoms the right
way, all the time. Condoms are the only device that can help protect
you from HIV (AIDS) and other STDs if they are used from start to
finish each and every time you have sex. If a condom breaks during
sex and sperm or semen spills out, it can cause infection.
- FALSE (unless it is a new plastic condom.) A condom should
only be kept in a wallet for a month. A man's body heat will weaken
latex, causing it to break more easily.
- FALSE (unless it is a new plastic condom.) Massage oil or
any other kind of oil cannot be used on a latex condom. Only
water-based lubricants can be used with latex condoms.
- FALSE. A man should withdraw as soon after climaxing as
possible, because semen and sperm can leak outside the condom.
- TRUE or FALSE depending on whom you talk
to. Scientists aren't in agreement about whether
spermicidally-lubricated condoms help protect you if your condom
breaks. Some say it is added protection because it can kill sperm,
cutting down on the amount that will go inside the partner if the
condom breaks. Others say there is not enough spermicide on a
spermicidally-lubricated condom to do any good if a condom breaks.
- TRUE. You aren't alone if you don't know all there is to
know about using condoms. Experts say the best thing for you to do
is get a package of condoms and practice before you'll need
them. Get a banana or cucumber and practice. This way you'll be
ready when you really need to be.
To the health care worker: Common Sense About AIDS
® is written especially for your patients and other
laymen. It explains important issues concerning AIDS in a thorough,
yet easy-to-understand style.
Although the material is copyrighted, the publisher grants you
permission to photocopy Common Sense About AIDS® and
distribute it throughout your facility. We encourage the dissemination
of this information.
Supplement to AIDS ALERT®, January 1995.
Copyright © 1995 American Health Consultants
(Thu Dec 7 00:29:03 1995)