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Male condoms

The consistent and proper use of condoms has been proven to significantly reduce the risk of HIV transmission. Male condoms are made of latex and some women have sensitivity to latex. If so, consult your health care provider or local health clinic about other options. Do not use condoms made of lambskin. Ribbed and textured condoms tend to tear easily.

Gloves and finger cots

These should be used for vaginal and anal penetration.

Dental dams

Dental dams are placed over the vagina, clitoris, and anus to prevent the transmission of HIV and other STDs during oral sex. It is sometime referred to as a latex barrier. We recommend that you use a dental dam when you go down on a woman or when a male and/or female partner goes down on you.

There are a lot of dental dams on the market and some women use Saran Wrap as well. However only one, the Glyde dental dam, has been approved by the FDA for STD prevention. If you are using a lube to go down on a woman, remember: lube on one side of the barrier and tongue on the other.

How to use a dental dam

Step 1: Rinse the powdery talc from the dental dam, pat dry with a towel or let it air dry.
Step 2: Place water-based lubricant on the side that faces either the female genital (vulva) or the anus.
Step 3: Place barrier on the genitals or anus. Do not move the barrier back and forth between the vagina and the anus as this can cause infection.
Step 4: Throw away the barrier after use. NEVER share or reuse dams.

Enemies of Latex

Unless stated, male condoms, dental dams, gloves and finger cots are made out of latex: Do not use the following with them:

  • Vaseline
  • Crisco
  • animal fats
  • whipping cream
  • hand lotion
  • chocolate sauce
  • mineral oil
  • baby oil
  • peanut butter
  • liqueurs
  • vegetable oil
  • massage oil
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • suntan oil
  • oil based perfumes

Female Condoms

Female condoms are specifically designed for women. Female condoms are made by only one company in the United States and are FDA approved for the prevention for HIV and other STDs. They provide another option for women to protect themselves from HIV and other STD transmission. If you have sensitivity to latex, then the female condom may be an option because it is made out of polyurethane. They are available in most major drug store chains. In most cases, the condoms are not displayed and you may have to ask for them. Female condoms are significantly more expensive than male condoms but Medicaid will pay for them as a contraceptive method.

Sex Toys

Use a condom when you share your sex toys for anal and vaginal sex.


The use of "lubes" can add a lot of fun to sex. Lubes come in all kinds of flavors and colors. There are two basic types: oil-based and water (or silicon) based lubes. NEVER use oil-based lubricants with male condoms. They break down latex and plastic wrap.


Some people have sensitivity to some lubricants, condoms, gloves and finger cots. This may irritate the vaginal wall which could facilitate transmission of HIV and/or other STDs. You can test your sensitivity by placing a finger full of the lube or placing the barrier (condom or dental dam) in your vagina. If your body shows signs of irritation ask your health care provider or local clinic for alternatives.

NEVER use lubricants with Nonoxynol-9 (also known as N-9). This is a chemical found in some spermicides and lubricants. Recent research confirms that it is not an effective prevention method for HIV and may irritate the vaginal wall and facilitate the transmission for HIV. Many condoms come already lubricated with N-9. When purchasing a condom that is already lubricated, make sure that the lubricant does not contain N-9.


Microbicides are substances (e.g., creams, gels, etc.) that can be inserted into the vagina and provide protection against HIV and other STD transmission. Microbicides are still in the experimental phase. Although you may find advertisements for microbicides on the internet, the FDA has not approved ANY substances as proven and safe methods for STD prevention. When an approved microbicide becomes available it will provide women with another choice of STD prevention. It is hoped that microbicides will provide a fully female controlled method (i.e., unlike the male and female condoms, the woman will not have to negotiate its use with her partner). To learn more about microbicides or to get involved in community organizing efforts to advocate for more federal and global funding for microbicide research, check out the Global Campaign for Microbicides or the Alliance for Microbicide Development.