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 plastic!

Why would you want to use plastic condoms, you ask? Here are a few reasons:

  • 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 now.

  • 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 down).

  • 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 having sex.

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 plastic condom.

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).

Proper Use

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 condom:

  1. Open the foil package.
  2. Look at the condom carefully, making sure the rolled edge is on the outside, not the inside.
  3. Hold the condom at the tip. Squeeze out any air.
  4. 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.
  5. Check with your fingers during sex to make sure the condom isn't slipping off.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

  1. Condoms can keep me safe from HIV (AIDS) and other sexually transmitted diseases.
  2. 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.
  3. We can safely use massage oil on the condom to make it glide easier.
  4. 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.
  5. Condoms with spermicide work just as well as condoms without spermicide.
  6. Many people don't know how to use condoms.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. FALSE. A man should withdraw as soon after climaxing as possible, because semen and sperm can leak outside the condom.
  5. 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.
  6. 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

[email protected] (Thu Dec 7 00:29:03 1995)