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FAQ: Risks of Late Condom Use

for Veterans and the Public

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are the risks of getting HIV if you put on a condom after you've already started having sex?

Delayed condom use during sex with an HIV positive partner may result in HIV transmission. In addition, this may increase your risk in contracting other STDs. Putting on a condom after you already have started having vaginal or anal sex is more risky than using a condom from the start. If it is difficult to talk about condom use with your partner, then it's time to find someone who can talk with both of you. Many cities have STD clinics and HIV counseling and testing sites that can help partners have these discussions. This also may be a great opportunity to consider PrEP if you are not using condoms consistently--discuss this with your VA provider or your local sexual health clinic. If a condom breaks during sex, contact a medical provider or go to an emergency room as soon as possible. There are medications that can help prevent HIV transmission if taken soon after exposure (PEP)

What are the risks to an HIV-negative person if they start having condomless sex with an HIV positive man, but he puts on a condom before he ejaculates?

For an HIV-negative woman, some studies have suggested that the risk of HIV infection is lower if a male partner withdraws before ejaculating than if he doesn't, but the risk is still higher than it is among those who use condoms properly and consistently. Why? Well, we know that pre-ejaculate, the sticky-yet-slippery clear fluid that a man produces after being sexually aroused but before he ejaculates, can have the virus in it, and can be infectious.

For an HIV-negative man who has sex with men (MSM), at least one study has shown that the odds of becoming infected with HIV as a result of having receptive anal sex with delayed condom use were about the same as the odds of becoming infected from having anal sex without condoms (or PrEP).

Having condomless sex increases the risk of contracting other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and genital herpes. Although these infections are treatable and (with the exception of herpes) curable, they often produce no symptoms and can increase the risk of becoming infected with HIV. Hepatitis B and C also can be transmitted through unprotected sex. Using condoms properly and consistently can decrease your risk of contracting these infections as well. And, proper condom use can prevent pregnancy.