Condom packaging, 'Phantasma', 1930-1940.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Condoms were first used in the 16th century as a protection against syphilis. In the 21st century they offer protection against sexually transmitted diseases, including the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), as well as being effective contraceptives. In the last 100 years, they have evolved from linen and animal intestine, via vulcanised rubber, to the multi-coloured, multi-flavoured latex varieties available today.