The male condom (also called a sheath) is widely used as a method of contraception and also to protect against sexually transmitted infection and HIV infection. It is a very thin sheath usually made of latex which is positioned and rolled out over the erect penis and covers it completely. Polyurethane condoms are also available which can be used particularly by people who are allergic to latex. Different models of condom are available: lubricated or unlubricated, with or without a reservoir, thicker or thinner in texture. They must meet European Standards (CE).
Their effectiveness depends on correct use by following the instructions for use for each type. They must be used during each sexual intercourse, put on during an erection in order to cover the penis and prevent any contact between the sperm and the woman's genital tract. They must be put on before penetration and kept on at withdrawal. They are for single use only. Under correct conditions of use and after learning how to use them (it may be useful to try on your own at home in a relaxed environment). They are 80 to 90% effective.
In practice, this method of contraception does not require a prescription. Condoms are sold without prescription in pharmacies, supermarkets and in public automatic dispensing machines. They are not reimbursed in France. They are sold ready-to-use in a package. The number of condoms in each box varies depending on the brand and model.
It is the only reversible method of contraception which is the responsibility of the male partner. Its contraceptive action is not completely effective and it is recommended that it is combined with other methods of contraception such as the pill or spermicides.
The condom protects both partners from sexually transmitted infections and from HIV infection.