Condoms are the best way to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unwanted pregnancy. Condoms are 98% effective when used correctly. They come in different sizes, fits, colours, flavours and textures. There are also latex free condoms for those with allergies.
Anyone can access free condoms from any sexual health or GUM clinic. Young people under 25 can also use the C-Card Scheme to access free condoms in a range of locations and through the post via the Just Ask bSHaW service. Staff are friendly and won’t judge you they just want to help you stay safe and well.
Options for accessing free condoms aged 16 and over: The C-Card Scheme
Options for accessing free condoms aged 13-15: The C-Card Scheme
Free Condoms for Adults : The C4C Scheme
Adults can access free condoms through any bSHaW Clinic during an appointment. Additionally Brookside Aylesbury and SHAW High Wycombe run the C4C Scheme giving adults free packs of condoms that can be collected monthly from reception. Please call 0300 303 2880 to arrange speak with a health advisor to register for the scheme.
What is the C-Card Scheme?
Free condoms and sexual health support for young people
The C-Card scheme is a free and confidential service. It allows young people between 13-24 years old to access free condoms and lubrication. You’ll speak with a friendly trained professional about sex, relationships and sexual health too.
It can be accessed through C-Card Walk-ins, the Just Ask bSHaW service (speak with an advisor to arrange discreet delivery of postal condoms) and it’s in some Youth Services, Schools and Colleges too.
What are condoms?
Condoms come as external (for male genitals) and internal (female genitals) covers, known as a barrier method of contraception. The barrier prevents the sperm meeting and egg and therefore preventing pregnancy.
Condoms come in a range of sizes, fits, colours, textures, and flavours. They are often made of latex but also come in latex free materials too. Sometimes it helps to try a range of condoms in advance to find a fit that feels right for you.
Be aware that some STIs such as Herpes, Warts and Syphilis are transmitted (passed from one person to another) through skin to skin contact. If you or your partner have an outbreak/symptoms abstain from sexual contact. Find out more about Herpes, Warts and Syphilis in our advice section.
If you would like a free and confidential STI check-up call 0300 303 2880 for an appointment.
Condoms and the law
You have to be 16 to legally (by law) be able to consent to sex. You must also be able to do so freely and have capacity to do so regardless of your age. Find out more about consent here.
There is no minimum age to buy condoms. You are entitled to free confidential contraception before the age of 16, this includes condoms. Condoms give you protection from unwanted pregnancy and added protection from Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) such as Gonorrhoea, Chlamydia and HIV.
Condoms: How and When to use them
Condoms should be used every time you have penetrative sex (vaginal, oral or anal) or if you are sharing sex toys. A condom should be put on before your genitals come into contact with each other.
Step by step guide to putting on a condom
- Check that the condom packet is in a good condition, if it’s worn or damaged the condom could be too, so don’t use it.
- Check that the condom is in date. This is printed on the package of each condom and the box they come in. Condoms usually last 2-3 years. If your condom is out of date don’t use it.
- Check for the British Kite Mark and European CE Mark this will tell you the condom is well made to high standards and is safe to use.
- Before opening a condom package push the condom to one side in the pack and then tear down the side avoiding tearing the condom within.
- Check the condom is the correct way up. It should look like a Mexican Sombrero hat.
- Pinch the tip of the condom between your thumb and forefinger to get rid of any air, this will avoid the condom breaking, it also allows somewhere for ejaculate to go.
- Put the condom on the penis as soon as it is erect (hard) or on the sex toy before it goes near anyone’s mouth, vagina or anus.
- Use your hand to roll the condom down the penis or sex toy all the way to the base. If it won’t unroll you may have it on the wrong way round, if this happens do not flip it over (otherwise pre ejaculate could then be on the outside of the condom causing a possible pregnancy risk) Instead discard the condom and start with a new one.
- If you are having anal sex you should use additional water based lubricant which can be applied directly to the anus and on the outside of the condom. This is because the anus is a small opening and also because the anus isn’t self-lubricating, lubricant is require to avoid friction, discomfort and pain. If you or your partner experience pain, stop immediately.
- Check the condom is in place during sex.
- After ejaculation, hold the condom at the base and withdraw the penis. Then take off the condom, wrap in tissue and throw it in the bin, don’t flush it down the toilet.
Condom dos and don’ts
- Do use a new condom each time you have sex
- Don’t use two condoms at once, it’s not safer, the friction is more likely to break the condom
- Do check the expiry date, British Kite mark and European CE mark
- Don’t use oil based lube with condoms, as they can reduce their effectiveness and damage the condom
- Do take care with sharp or long nails and jewellery around condoms, as they can tear condoms
- Don’t open condoms with your teeth
- Do use water-based lube
- Don’t use a condom if the package looks damaged
- Do make sure the condom fits properly. Sometimes it helps to try a range of condoms in advance to find a fit that feels right for you. Make sure it’s rolled down to the base of the penis or sex toy.
- Don’t flip over a condom if it won’t roll down, get a new one
The condom broke or we didn’t use a condom.
What to do
If the condom broke or you didn’t use one you could be at risk of having an STI, contact us to make an appointment for an STI test. Call 0300 303 2880.
If the condom broke or you didn’t use one you could also be at risk of unwanted pregnancy. You can obtain free emergency contraception from any bSHaW sexual health clinic. It is more effective the earlier it is taken. Call 0300 303 2880 for appointments or find out about our walk-in and wait clinics at Brookside, Aylesbury and SHAW, High Wycombe
If you think you have been exposed to HIV you can make an appointment to arrange emergency PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis) it must be taken within 72 hours of exposure, but the sooner you take PEP the better. Call 0300 303 2880 to make an appointment.
However, please be aware that all clinics are closed on Bank Holidays, therefore in case of an emergency you should go to A&E at Stoke Mandeville Hospital for sexual exposure and for occupational exposure the Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC) or A&E.
Condoms: learn more
Need to speak to someone?
If you need further advice, or if this page hasn’t answered your questions then get in contact with your local bSHaW Sexual Health Clinic for a friendly chat.
Call 0300 303 2880 to book an appointment or use our service finder to locate your nearest clinic.