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Every year from February 14-21, we at Planned Parenthood observe National Condom Week. This is a great time to learn more about the importance of using condoms and other barrier methods and to educate others, because everyone deserves to have a worry-free and healthy sex life.

Condoms are the only form of birth control that also prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs). There are many varieties of condoms to choose from - latex, plastic, ribbed, different sizes, and more - to meet the needs of you and your partners. Other great options include barrier methods, like internal condoms, diaphragms, or dental dams. One important thing to note, however, is that while the majority of condoms and barrier methods prevent the spread of STIs, lambskin condoms and diaphragms do not. The best choice for both protection from both STIs and unintended pregnancy is a plastic or latex condom.

Did you know there’s a right way to put on a condom?

You may be surprised to learn that there are actually five steps to ensuring you’re using an external condom correctly. Check out this video from our education team at Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest to learn all the steps. It starts with healthy communication, making sure everyone has consent, and ensuring the condom is not expired or damaged. It’s also important to know that using oil-based lubricants can damage condoms and cause them to break. Try using a water or silicone-based lube instead!

“Consistent and correct use of latex condoms reduces the risk of STIs and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission,” said Chrissy Cmorik, director of education at Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest. “And while condoms do offer great protection against STIs, they are not 100 percent effective, so STI testing is recommended each year or before each new sex partner.”

Using condoms is a form of self-care, community-care, and a way to contribute to public health. Everyone has the right to make important decisions about their own sexual health and when we have open and honest conversations about our needs, we can make sure we have healthy and enjoyable experiences. Make sure you’re communicating and engaging in an open dialogue about safer sex practices this National Condom Week and beyond.

And be sure to tune into @pppswhealth on TikTok and Instagram in mid-February for information about the history of condoms, condom demos, dental dams, condom myths, and more!