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Condoms: A Virtual Orgy of Sizes, Shapes, and Tastes

10 Tips for Getting the Best Use From Condoms
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There are condoms treated with spermicide and others with a lubricant that supposedly prolongs sexual pleasure and prevents premature ejaculation. There are extra-strength condoms, made of slightly thicker latex "for those rough and tumble moments," the wizard explains (wink, wink). Word has it a German company is even developing a spray condom. To don this puppy, apparently, you slip your erect penis into a sort of can, which sprays latex from all sides. No word on when spray condoms will be available.

How Effective Are Condoms?

Playfulness aside, using a condom if you're sexually active can be a matter of life and death. As part of safe sex, condoms have been shown to protect against HIV/AIDS, as well as a variety of other sexually transmitted diseases, including hepatitis B, gonorrhea, syphilis, and the virus that cause genital warts. They are also effective at preventing unwanted pregnancies, of course.

How effective? That's surprisingly hard to say, acknowledges Markus Steiner, PhD, MSPH, an epidemiologist at Family Health International and contributor of a chapter on condoms in the textbook Contraceptive Technology.

"Condoms only work if they are used consistently and correctly, and that's something that's very difficult to study in people," says Steiner. Studies estimate that of 100 couples using condoms consistently and correctly, 2% would become pregnant during the first year of use. In real life, however, people and condoms slip. The actual rate of unintended pregnancy among couples using condoms for contraception is closer to15%.

What about sexually transmitted diseases? Again, condoms only work if they are used properly and consistently. When they are, though, they can dramatically reduce the risk of serious infections. Health experts credit the widespread use of condoms for reining in the HIV/AIDS epidemic in many parts of the world. Some studies show that condoms are more than 90% effective at preventing HIV transmission.

10 Tips for the Best Condom Protection

Condoms would be even more effective if they were always used correctly. This is particularly an issue in teen condom use. What goes wrong? Dumb things, mostly. Not using a condom every time sexual intercourse occurs is the most common problem, according to Steiner. Another problem: failure to use condoms throughout intercourse. In recent surveys, some men admit to donning condoms well into intercourse or removing them prior to ejaculation. (How dumb is that?) The culprit most people blame --condom slippage or breakage -- is actually quite rare, according to Steiner, occurring only about 2%of the time.

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