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Charlie Sheen reportedly uses lambskin condoms. But what are they?

What is a lambskin condom? Well, it’s not made of lambskin for starters.

Charlie Sheen’s ex Bree Larson says the Two and a Half Men star never told her that he was HIV positive, and they only used lambskin condoms when having sex.

Sheen claims that since he discovered he was HIV positive four years ago he has told all his sexual partners and always used condoms.

But lambskin condoms aren’t considered adequate protection against STIs, only pregnancy.

So what are they, and why use them?

Lambskin condoms are one of the oldest pregnancy pophylactics around. They are actually made from lamb intestines.

Not just delicious.

Only one manufacturer still makes them, and they are much more expensive than latex or other types of condom. They account for about 5 per cent of condoms manufactured in the US.

“Small pores make lambskin condoms ineffective in protecting against viruses that cause STIs. But they do protect against pregnancy, since the pores are too small for sperm to pass through,” Columbia University’s sexual health advice website writes.

Journalist L.V. Anderson has written a comprehensive story about modern condoms that asks why the condom hasn’t really changed at all in decades.

In it she writes: “Lambskin condoms look quite a bit like sausage casings—they are thin, translucent, and slimy when wet… When I first held one in my hands, at a small condom manufacturer in California, I tried to break it by tugging on it and poking at it with my fingernails, but failed.”

In the United States, only latex condoms are allowed to be sold advertising that they protect against STIs.

Does not guard against STIs

According to the US Centre for Disease Control, the pores of “natural membrame condoms” are “more than 10 times the diameter of HIV… laboratory studies demonstrate that viral STD transmission can occur with natural membrane condoms.”

In the 1980s and early 1990s, at the height of the AIDS crisis, it was only latex condoms that were able to pass the tests set to determine whether a condom was effective.

The microscopic holes in the natural sheep membranes (the lambskin condoms) were too small for sperm to get through, but big enough for some STIs. They didn’t pass the tests.

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So, using a lambskin condom is just as effective as a latex one if you are protecting against pregnancy, but not if you want to stop STIs too.

They are marketed to monogamous couples with a clean bill of health and are required by law to say on packaging that they do not protect against STIs.

Sheen reveals his diagnosis. Post continues after video:

Video via TODAY

But if latex is the only condom that is considered to effectively protect against STIs, why would anyone seek out something different (unless they have an allergy)?

The answer is fairly obvious, and was the motivation for the Gates Foundation in 2013 to seek applications for grants to develop the next generation of condom.

People don’t wear latex because it doesn’t feel good.

“Loss of sensation, either real or perceived, is one of the main reasons men prefer not to wear condoms during intercourse,” Papa Salif Sow and Stephen Ward wrote in a blog post about the call out.

“The common analogy is wearing a condom is like ‘taking a shower with a raincoat on’ – meaning the whole point of the activity, be it a shower or sexual intercourse, is negated by wearing the raincoat, or in the case of sex, the condom.”

Lambskin condoms reportedly feel more natural to use, and heat up with the human body – unlike latex.

But it should be the choice of both partners to take risks with sex, which is why if you plan on giving lambskin a try, you should make sure you know all the risks.

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