Will birth control pills protect me from HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and other STDs?

Some people wrongly believe that if they take birth control pills, they are protecting themselves not only from getting pregnant but also from infection with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Birth control pills or other types of birth control, such as intrauterine devices (IUDs), Depo-Provera, or tubal ligation will NOT protect you from HIV and other STDs.

The male latex condom is the only birth control method that is proven to help protect you from HIV and other STDs. If you are allergic to latex, there are condoms made of polyurethane that you can use. Condoms come lubricated (which can make sexual intercourse more comfortable and pleasurable) and non-lubricated (which can be used for oral sex).

It is important to only use latex or polyurethane condoms to protect against HIV and other STDs. “Natural” or “lambskin” condoms have tiny pores that may allow for the passage of viruses like HIV, hepatitis B and herpes. If you use non-lubricated condoms for vaginal or anal sex, you can add lubrication with water-based lubricants (like KY jelly) that you can buy at a drug store. Never use oil-based products, such as massage oils, baby oil, lotions, or petroleum jelly, to lubricate a condom. These will weaken the condom, causing it to tear or break.

It is very important to use a condom correctly and consistently – which means every time you have vaginal, oral, or anal sex. If you do not know how to use a condom, talk with your doctor or nurse. Don’t be embarrassed. Also, do not assume that your partner knows how to use a condom correctly. Many men have never had anyone show them how. The biggest reason condoms fail is due to incorrect use. Male condoms can only be used once. Research is being done to find out how effective the female condom is in preventing HIV and other STDs.