Male condoms made from latex, polyisoprene, and polyurethane are your best protection against STIs spread by fluids. This means condoms can protect against:

  • HIV
  • chlamydia
  • gonorrhea
  • syphilis

Other STIs, such as herpes and genital warts, spread through skin-to-skin contact. Depending on the affected area, these may not be totally covered by condoms.

Female condoms provide some STI protection, but more research is needed to fully assess their effectiveness. The female condom isn’t as effective at blocking diseases as the male condom.

Although about 80 percent of the condoms you’ll find at the store are made from either latex or polyurethane, there are more natural varieties. It’s important to note that condoms made from lambskin or other natural materials protect against pregnancy, but they may not fully protect against all STIs. This is because these materials are porous and may allow for the transmission of infection even with perfect usage.

If you have an allergy or other reason for not using the latex or plastic options, speak with your doctor about which birth control option may best suit your needs.