There’s a reason why we still encourage guys to use condoms for HIV prevention: THEY WORK! Condoms have a really unique place in gay men’s history, because they were the first crucial step that started to slow the HIV epidemic. In fact, we know that when condom use was at its highest rate among gay guys, new HIV transmissions reached their lowest rate in the entire history of the epidemic. We also know that condoms have to be used consistently and correctly, and that if they aren’t, guys are still at risk for HIV transmission when they have the kinds of sex where HIV can be passed. Most importantly, though, we know that when condoms are used consistently and correctly, they have about the same effectiveness at preventing HIV transmission as PrEP does- around 90%. For a great fact sheet on condom use and effectiveness, check out this CATIE resource HERE.
Consistent condom use means that you use condoms every single time you have the kinds of sex where HIV can be passed. For gay guys, HIM considers this to be anal sex, including both topping and bottoming. HIV transmission from getting or giving head is what’s called a ‘theoretical’ risk for HIV transmission, because while it’s possible that it can happen, if it does, it’s so rare that it’s almost undocumented in HIV research. Using condoms ‘most of the time’ or only with certain guys is not the right way to use condoms- if you’re relying on condoms as your HIV prevention method, they should be used every single time you have anal sex outside of a monogamous relationship.
Consistent condom use also means that you are able to negotiate using them, including with dates, hookups, fuck buddies, or boyfriends. We know this isn’t easy for all guys- if negotiating condoms WAS easy, way more of us would have an easier time using them! There are a lot of reasons that it’s hard to negotiate condom use: a guy might tell you he doesn’t like them, or doesn’t like the way they feel, and then you might find yourself feeling like you have to convince him- and that’s not only not sexy, it’s not fair. It can also be hard to stop the action and bring up condom use, especially if you’re having sex in a place where there might not have been a lot of communication- like a bathhouse.
For some guys, it can be helpful to bring out a condom before any type of action, including kissing, takes place- this kind of sets the scene, like you’re non-verbally telling the guy ‘So, I’m going to put this here, because I use condoms and now it’s ready to go when we need it.’ This strategy might also be helpful in bathhouses, or where other types of more anonymous sex happens, like parks and cruising grounds. If you use hook up sites online, you could consider adding condoms to your user profile, so that guys you’re chatting with know that your expectation is that you use them when you have the kinds of sex where HIV can be passed. We know negotiating condom use can be hard- and we’re not trying to oversimplify it. We just want you to remember that condoms allow you to take control of your own sexual health, and that you’re ultimately the only person who has that power- whether you’re on PrEP, or whether you use condoms!
Correct condom use is different than consistent condom use. Correct condom use means that you aren’t only using condoms during the types of sex where HIV can be passed, but you’re using them right. Condoms might not be ‘rocket science,’ but there’s definitely an art to using them right! When condoms don’t work (i.e., when they break or slip off), it’s usually because they haven’t been used correctly.
Correct condom use means that you’re using a type of lube (silicon or water-based) that is specifically designed for condoms, because other types of lube (oil based ones) can degrade condoms and that might cause them to break. Lube is really important in another way: it needs to be applied to your dick or ass in sufficient amounts, because otherwise friction can cause the condom to break or pull off, and that can expose you to some of the body fluids that HIV can be passed through (like anal fluids or cum). Putting a drop of lube inside the condom can also help decrease friction, and can even make the condom feel more pleasurable for the top.
If you’re uncut, you should pull back your foreskin before you put it on, because that will also help prevent the condom from getting too tight and breaking. And speaking of too tight, all jokes aside, if you have a big dick, make sure that you’re using a condom designed to accommodate your, ahem, ‘needs.’ That said, don’t, um ‘overinflate’ your dick size when it comes to condoms- just like they can break if they’re too tight, condoms that are too big can slip off. No matter what your size, even in the heat of the moment take a break once in a while to make sure that the condom is still on and doesn’t have any tears and hasn’t broken. And remember that if you’re ever in a group sex situation, a new condom needs to be used every time you switch partners- even if it’s back to a guy you were with moments ago.
One thing a lot of guys don’t realise about condoms is that there are different types, and they can make a huge difference when it comes to sex! HIM offers a lot of different kinds, from insertive condoms (these are a type of condom that the bottom puts in his ass before sex) to latex free condoms. Some guys, especially bottoms, find that latex free polyisoprene or polyurethane condoms feel better than latex. Latex can cause skin sensitivity in some guys, and as we all know the ass is a particularly tender place!