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Why lambskin condoms protect against pregnancy, but not HIV

Meagan Morris is an entertainment and lifestyle journalist living in New York City. In addition to SheKnows, Morris contributes to many publications including The New York Times, Yahoo! News, PopEater, NBC New York and Spinner. Follow he...

Lambskin condoms are better than nothing, but not the best way to protect against STDs

When Charlie Sheen revealed that he's HIV-positive, he assured Matt Lauer on NBC's Today show that his sexual partners knew about his status and that he wasn't able to transmit the disease.

However, former girlfriend Bree Olson told Howard Stern that wasn't the case. "[He] never said anything, ever," Olson told Stern on his SiriusXM radio show. "’I’m clean,’ he told me."

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The pair — together for about a year during the actor's #winning phase — did use protection, but they used lambskin condoms, not latex.

Lambskin condoms are not made from actual lambskin, but from a thin, porous membrane found in the sheep intestine. It's popular because the ultra-thin style creates a feel close to that of skin-on-skin contact, but can still block sperm. It can't, however, protect against STDs like HIV and herpes because the bacteria, viruses and germs are small enough to pass through the membrane, according to

Latex condoms, on the other hand, have been shown to be more protective against sexually transmitted diseases like HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The problem is that some people are allergic to latex, making the use of lambskin necessary.

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Sheen's former girlfriend also said they used the pull-out method when they didn't use condoms, but that is also ineffective.

"Withdrawal, even with condoms used perfectly — you can still get scrotal transmission [of HIV]," Dr. Jill Rabin told Yahoo! Health. "Withdrawal is not a good method because if a male feels himself about to ejaculate, the first drop of ejaculate is already out — and that transmits the virus. Withdrawal could still give you a good amount of virus in the vagina or rectum. If you are waiting to feel something [to pull out], it’s too late. It’s already over."

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Luckily, she doesn't have to worry as Olson tested negative for HIV.

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