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Sexually transmitted infections: condom distribution schemes

Targeting services

  • Provide a range of condom distribution schemes (also known as condom schemes) to meet the needs of different local populations, based on needs assessment, consultation and sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates. Target those most at risk. Include multicomponent schemessingle component schemes (free condoms) and cost-price sales schemes
  • Provide condom schemes as part of existing services that are likely to be used by those most at risk. This could include services provided by the voluntary sector (such as advice projects and youth projects), school health services, and primary healthcare (including GP surgeries and community pharmacies)
  • Ensure links exist between condom schemes and local sexual and reproductive health services. For example, consider:
    • providing condoms with information about local sexual health services
    • displaying posters and providing leaflets advertising local sexual health services where condoms are available
  • Publicise condom schemes to people most at risk of getting an STI. For example:
    • put posters and leaflets in places used by those most at risk
    • advertise on geospatial social networking apps (used to find local sexual partners) or websites (such as the NHS condom locator) and social media

Multicomponent schemes for young people in health, education, youth, and outreach settings

Service organisation

  • Provide tailored multicomponent condom schemes in preference to other types of condom scheme for young people aged up to 16 and others for whom there is a duty of care
  • Consider extending tailored multicomponent condom schemes to include all young people up to the age of 25
  • Integrate these schemes into broader services for young people, for example, as part of young people’s sexual and reproductive health services (see NICE’s guideline on contraceptive services for under 25s )
  • Offer pathways into other services including: sexual and reproductive health, alcohol and drug, mental health and partner violence services, as needed
  • Ensure services:
    • meet the Department of Health’s You’re Welcome  criteria for young-person-friendly services
    • are confidential
    • are sited in settings accessible to young people for example, in health, education, youth, and outreach settings, and in a range of geographical areas
    • are accessible by public transport
    • are available at convenient times for young people (for example, after school, college, or university, and at weekends)
  • Ensure the safety of young people by:
    • assessing the competence of those under 16, and others for whom there is a duty of care, before providing them with condoms
    • being alert to signs of child sexual exploitation or abuse, including intimate partner violence. See Spotting the signs of CSE proforma  (British Association for Sexual Health and HIV and Brook) and NICE’s guideline on child maltreatment 
    • agreeing with the young person how they will use the scheme. This should take into account their age and circumstances and include an agreement that after a specified number of visits they will discuss their relationships and condom use again
  • Consider providing a range of condom types (for example, latex-free) and sizes, female condoms and dental dams. Include lubricant as well as condoms if they need or want it

Information and advice

  • Tailor information and advice according to the young person’s needs and circumstances, including their sexual identity and whether or not they are having sex or are in a relationship
  • Discuss the effect that alcohol and drugs can have on decision-making and their ability to consent
  • Teach young people to use condoms effectively and safely (using education, information, and demonstrations) before providing them
  • Provide information about emergency contraception and post-exposure prophylaxis so that young people know what to do and where to go in the event of a condom failure

Single component schemes

Free condoms

  • Consider distributing free condoms (with lubricant) to people at most risk of STIs through:
    • commercial venues (including sex-on-premises venues), public sex environments, and other places where people are at more risk of getting an STI
    • local businesses that people most at risk of STIs may use, for example, some community pharmacies
    • voluntary and community organisations that work with those at most risk, for example, sexual health charities
    • other settings, such as universities and further education settings
  • Provide information next to supplies of condoms (the information should be in line with NICE’s guidelines on behaviour change: general approaches and behaviour change: individual approaches). This could include information about:
    • sexual and reproductive health
    • reliable sources of further information (for example, NHS Choices )
    • other condom schemes (including multicomponent schemes)
    • local sexual health services, including HIV testing services
    • what to do in the event of a condom failure
  • Ensure supporting information is sensitive to the environment where it is displayed, for example in terms of language and the images used

Cost-price sales schemes

  • Sell cost-price condoms to the wider population using websites run by existing health and wellbeing services, or larger-scale online condom sales schemes
  • Provide information about using condoms and about sexual and reproductive health at the point of sale

Terms used in this guideline

  • This section defines terms that have been used in a specific way for this guideline

Condom distribution schemes

  • Mainly referred to as ‘condom schemes’ in this guideline. The term refers to all schemes that provide free or cost-price condoms, female condoms and dental dams, with or without lubricant. This includes schemes that also offer advice, information, or support

Cost-price sales schemes

  • These schemes provide cost-price condoms and, if appropriate, lubricant. They include community schemes that provide cost-price condoms to sex workers and online services

Multicomponent schemes

  • These schemes distribute free condoms with or without lubricant, together with training, information or other support

Single component schemes

  • These schemes provide or distribute free condoms and if appropriate, lubricant. This includes online services for specific groups or areas of the country, and distribution schemes in public places

© NICE 2017. Sexually transmitted infections: condom distribution schemes. Available from: www.nice.org.uk/guidance/NG68. All rights reserved. Subject to Notice of rights.

NICE guidance is prepared for the National Health Service in England. All NICE guidance is subject to regular review and may be updated or withdrawn. NICE accepts no responsibility for the use of its content in this product/publication. 

First included: May 2017.