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Condoms are an effective HIV prevention tool for adolescents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS position statement describes how condoms prevent the spread of HIV by acting as a barrier that the virus cannot pass through. In many countries, distribution of condoms has helped reduce HIV transmission in populations disproportionately affected by the epidemic, like men who have sex with men.

Using condoms consistently and correctly is a highly effective way for adolescents to protect themselves against sexually transmitted HIV. There are several things to keep in mind when talking to adolescents about condoms and HIV prevention. Adolescents' risk of contracting HIV increases when they engage in sex without a condom. The CDC's 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) reveals that 43% of sexually active United States high school students did not use a condom during their last sexual encounter.

Youth HIV Facts

43% of sexually active high school students reported not using a condom during their last sexual experience.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Adolescents may lack knowledge about how to obtain and use condoms correctly. According to CDC's 2014 School Health Policies and Practices Study (SHPPS), in U.S. high schools there is limited education about proper condom use and how to obtain them: 

  • Only 35% of students are taught how to use a condom correctly
  • 55% are taught the importance of using a condom and another contraceptive together to prevent both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, like HIV
  • 50% of high school health education programs taught students how to obtain condoms
  • Only 7% of high schools made condoms available to students at school

There are a number things that youth-serving providers can do to increase the likeliness that the sexually active young people they work with use condoms correctly and consistently. According to an article on adolescent condom use in the journal Pediatrics, suggest these strategies: 

  • Provide comprehensive sexual health education 
  • Increase belief in condom effectiveness in preventing HIV infection
  • Increase ability to communicate with partners about STIs and HIV
  • Reinforce the perception that condom use is a norm among peers
  • Develop skills to discuss condom use with a doctor

Types of Condoms

CDC describes two types of condoms that adolescents can choose from to prevent HIV infection: external condoms and internal condoms. Some youth will have heard of external, or "male," condoms but will need to know where to obtain them, how to use them correctly, and why to use them consistently. Internal condoms, also known as "female" condoms, are less commonly known and may require additional explanation. Adolescents should select either an external or internal condom - not both - each time they have anal, vaginal, or oral sex; the friction created by multiple condoms rubbing against each other increases the chance of condoms breaking.

External Condoms

External condoms protect against HIV when worn correctly on the penis during sexual contact. Condoms made of latex or plastic offer the best protection, and there is a variety of colors, styles, textures, and sizes to choose from.

  • To use an external condom correctly, adolescents must:
    • Use a new condom for each new erection.
    • Put the condom on before the penis touches the anus, vulva, or mouth.
    • Check the expiration date on the package to make sure the condom hasn't expired.
    • Gently tear open the side of the wrapper, without tearing the condom itself. Open it carefully without using teeth or other sharp objects.
    • Use water-based lubricants on latex condoms since oil-based products (lotion, Vaseline, etc.) can degrade latex.
    • Pinch and hold the tip of the condom and unroll down to the base of the penis.
    • Place the rolled condom right side up over the tip of the erect penis. If the condom touches the penis while inside-out, it won't unroll easily like it should, it should be thrown away, and a new one used.
  • Taking the condom off correctly is just as important as putting it on. Remind youth to:
    • Hold the condom at the base of the penis while it is still erect.
    • Withdraw the penis slowly so the semen does not spill out.
    • Throw the condom away.
Video Resource

Planned Parenthood's webpage has answers to common external condom questions and short videos on condom basics.

Webpage Resource

Bedsider's webpage has basic information on external condoms and videos of youth discussing why they use them.

Internal Condoms

Internal condoms, sometimes called female condoms, are pouches made of nitrile, a synthetic latex product. Adolescents can wear these pouches internally, inside the vagina or anus, to protect against HIV. The internal condom has two rings - an inner ring on the closed end, which holds the condom in place, and an outer ring on the open end that remains on the outside of the body.

  • To correctly insert an internal condom inside the anus or vagina, adolescents should:
    • Put the condom on before the penis touches the anus or vulva.
    • Check the expiration date on the package to make sure the condom hasn't expired.
    • Gently tear open the side of the wrapper, without tearing the condom itself. Open it carefully without using teeth or other sharp objects.
    • Apply lubricant on the outside of the condom's closed end, if desired.
    • Squeeze the sides of ring at the closed end of the pouch and push the ring into the vagina or anus until it cannot go any further.
    • Let the outer ring hang outside of the anus or vagina.
  • To remove internal condoms, remind youth to:
    • Twist the outer ring to secure semen inside the condom.
    • Carefully pull the condom out of the anus or vagina.
    • Throw the condom away.
Infographic Resource

AVERT’s one-page infographic teaches young women how to use the internal condom to protect against HIV.

Fact Sheet Resource

AVERT’s two-page fact sheet demonstrates how to use male and female condoms and lubricant to help prevent HIV infection.

Where to Find Condoms

Condoms are inexpensive and can be found online and in drugstores, pharmacies, health clinics, community health centers, and some supermarkets. Some organizations and businesses give condoms away for free or at a reduced cost. Youth looking for free condoms may find websites like the Condom Finder useful.

Photo of Angelique Whitley-Allen
Angelique Whitley-Allen

In this story, Angelique advocates for comprehensive sexual health education, specifically HIV, at the New York City and State legislatures. She also finds time to help a friend be smart in her new relationship.

Page last updated: February 2018