Using condoms correctly, and every time you have sex, can help prevent HIV acquisition and transmission.
How to use Condoms correctly
Read our ‘Gettin’ It On‘ guide to learn more about using condoms correctly.
If a condom bursts or slips off:
Think PEP: Take urgent action if you think you have had an exposure to HIV. PEP is an emergency treatment to prevent HIV acquisition after possible exposure. It must be taken with 72 hours of exposure. Contact your nearest Hospital Emergency Department or your local STI clinic for assessment without delay.
Think Emergency Contraception: there are two types of Emergency Contraception available to buy directly in pharmacies without a prescription: (1) a 3 day pill that has to be taken within 72 hours; and (2) a 5 day pill that has to be taken within 120 hours. These are also available through your GP or a family planning clinic.
Think Testing: get a full sexual health screening at your local STI clinic. Testing is free of charge at public clinics in Ireland. Find your nearest clinic with our handy Testing Locator Map.
Availability: male condoms are available to purchase from pharmacies and some supermarkets. Free condoms (and lube) are available at HIV Ireland and at other organisations around Ireland.
Lubricant (lube) consists of a liquid or gel that can reduce friction, making sex more comfortable and pleasurable. Most condoms are lubricated, but using extra lube will reduce friction during sex.
- Only use water-based or silicone-based lube with condoms. Some examples include KY Jelly, Aqua Glide, Wet Stuff, TLC, Liquid Silk.
- Lube should be applied outside (and all over) the condom (and not inside the condom or on the penis). Applying lube on the penis before putting the condom on may contribute to the condom slipping off.
- Lube can be applied in and around the vagina and/or anus.
- Apply more lube during longer periods of sex.
- Never use saliva/spit as a lube; this can increase the risk of a condom splitting because saliva dries quickly.
- Do not use any oil-based lubricants such as baby oils or vaseline. These can weaken latex, and may contribute to a condom breaking during sex.
Female condoms are non–latex and when used properly can be really effective at preventing the acquisition of HIV and other STIs. It can take a little time and practise to use them properly – the instructions are found on the back of each packet and are also listed below.
Before using the female condom:
Check the expiry date.
Check for CE and/or kite mark.
Check that there is no damage to the packet.
Female condoms can be used at any stage during the menstrual cycle.
Open the packet and remove the condom. Female condoms have lubricant on the outside already but additional water based lubricant can be used inside too.
Squeeze the inner ring between your thumb and forefinger. Insert the condom into the vagina and push inside as far as you can.
Put your finger inside the condom until you can feel the bottom of the inner ring and push it until it can go no further. The larger outer ring will stay on the outside of your vagina.
When sex begins, guide your partner’s penis into the outer ring and make sure it does not go down the side, passing the condom.
After sex &/or ejaculation, twist the outer ring three times (to keep the semen inside) then gently pull it out.
Wrap the condom and dispose of it safely and hygienically (not down the toilet).
Female condoms should only be used once and shouldn’t be used with male condoms.
Availability: they are available to purchase in some pharmacies. Some family planning organisations may also stock them. HIV Ireland keeps a limited stock of female condoms – available free of charge. They are not always in stock so it is best to contact us to check first.
Dental Dams / Glyde Dams / Oral Dams
Dams are thin latex sheets, (also available in non latex), that cover the vaginal and/or anal area acting as a barrier during oral vaginal or oral anal sex. Dams come in a variety of colours or flavours.
How to Use:
Check expiry date.
Open the dam and put a few drops of water–based lubricant on the underside of it. This will help hold the dam in place and increase sensitivity.
Place over your partner’s vulva (vagina, clitoris and labia), or over the anus for rimming.
Use/lick one side of the dam only.
Never re-use or share dams.
If you can’t find a dam, cut a condom or a latex glove into a rectangular sheet.
Store dams in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight.
Availability: these can be difficult to source in Ireland. They may sometimes be found in Adult Stores or ask at your local STI clinic.