We provide condoms free-of-charge at all of our offices, in our mobile unit and at community events. Testing centers and health clinics also may have free condom supplies. You can buy condoms in pharmacies, grocery stores, convenience stores, dispensers in restrooms, online and other places.
Condoms come in lots of colors, textures, lengths, widths and thicknesses. Make sure they are latex or polyurethane (plastic), which both are effective in preventing HIV, other STDs and pregnancy. Avoid using animal skin (or “natural”) condoms, which prevent pregnancy but are not as effective in preventing all STDs, including HIV. While male condoms are more popular, female condoms, which are inserted into the vagina, also are an option when male condoms cannot be used. There are latex-free condoms available for those who might have allergies to latex.
Condoms can break, slip or leak if they are not put on and taken off properly. If you feel the condom break at any point during sexual activity, you should stop immediately, withdraw, remove the broken condom and put on a new condom. If you believe that you may have been exposed to HIV, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatment lowers the risk of transmission, but must be taken within 48 hours. EPIC’s Sexual Health Center in St. Petersburg supports access to PEP. Emergency contraception, which prevents pregnancy (but not STIs), can be started five days after unprotected sex, but the sooner it is started the better it works.
For many people, it may be uncomfortable bringing up the topic of condoms with their partners. It is likely your partner will be relieved that you are taking the lead to use condoms to protect each other from HIV and other STDs.
Here are some tips for starting the conversation:
Know Yourself: Think through what feels right for you so you are clear about how you feel and can talk about it with someone else.
Get the Facts: Read up on STDs, pregnancy prevention and using condoms correctly and consistently so you are prepared if any questions come up.
Talk Before it is Too Late: Talk about condoms before you are in a situation when you might need one (before you take your clothes off). Find a time and place where you are comfortable and can talk without other things going on.
Be Confident: Be up front and direct about wanting to use condoms each and every time you have sex. There is no shame in wanting to protect yourself and others from STDs or pregnancy.
Explain the Risks: Using condoms does not mean you have trust issues. STDs often show no symptoms and many of those who are infected do not know it, so condoms are good common sense.
Be Respectful: Respect yourself, your partner and your relationship. If part of why you want to talk about condoms is to tell your partner about an STD you have, just say so. Talking about it will it help you take the right precautions to protect you and your partner’s health.
Love Yourself: If your partner refuses to use condoms, be firm. No condom, no sex. If your partner does not want to protect you and his/herself and does not respect your wishes, you might want to ask yourself if you really want to have sex with this person.