A lot of people don’t know they’ve got HIV. They can look and feel healthy but still have the virus. There is also evidence that some gay men who get HIV these days are getting it because they have decided to give up condoms with their regular partner who they love and trust.
Understanding safer sex is important:
Whether you have HIV or not or you just don’t know. Different strains of the virus may be harmful to partners who are both infected. Whether you’re in a steady relationship or not.
What is Safer Sex?
HIV can be present in infected blood, semen and pre-ejaculate (pre-cum) – the fluid that leaks out of your penis when aroused. Safer sex means not letting any of these fluids inside another person’s body. Many ways of having sex carry no risk of HIV – like kissing, masturbation and body rubbing. It’s anal and vaginal sex without a condom (rubber) that carry the highest risk. Always use a condom to cut down the chance of HIV being passed on.
Main risk – Anal Sex
The virus can pass through both the linings of your anus and the tip of your penis. So anal sex without a condom is very risky for both the active (insertive) and passive (receptive) partner. Condoms provide a very effective barrier against HIV.
– Use a condom
– Use plenty of water-based lubricant
– Remember : pre-ejaculate (pre-cum) can pass on HIV. So pulling out before ejaculating without a condom is risky too.
Sex in Relationships
Things can look very different when you’re in a relationship. You and your partner might want to think again about your use of condoms. But remember, you can still get HIV from a partner you love and trust. So there are many issues you need to discuss with your partner. For example, if you stop practising safer sex in your relationship, it can be very difficult to go back to it. Someone from one of the helpline listings may be able to help you make a decision you’ll both be happy with, or you can of course contact us.
Sex with Women
Some gay men have sex with women. You don’t have to call yourself “straight” or “bi” to have sex with women. Use a reliable condom for vaginal sex. Look for the BS Kite Mark and the European CE Mark.
Oral sex is much less risky than anal sex without a condom, and we know, the risk of passing on HIV to either partner through oral sex is low. However is is better to avoid getting semen in the mouth, particularly if you have any cuts and sores (e.g. ulcers and cold sores) as this may increase the risk of infection.
Little or No Risk
Many activities carry little or no risk of passing on HIV. As long as you don’t let one person’s blood, semen, or pre-cum get inside the other persons body.
Alone or with a partner, masturbation is safe. Keep semen away from cuts and sores and don’t use your partner’s semen as a lubricant.
Body Rubbing or Massage
Body rubbing and massage is safe. If you do go on to have anal sex after a massage, clean off any oil as this may damage the rubber of a condom.
Tonguing your partner’s anus (Rimming)
There’s little risk of HIV transmission by rimming – as long as no blood gets into the mouth or anus. However you can get Hepatitis B, Herpes and other infections this way.
Sex toys someone else has used may have small amounts of blood or semen on them. This could be potentially infectious. Put a condom over a dildo if you are going to share it, or clean it with hot soapy water. Not sharing toys at all is safer.
Fingering and Fisting
The risk of passing on HIV is low. Try not to tear or damage the inside of the anus. Keep fingernails trimmed and smooth.
Other Body Fluids
Urine and faeces carry little risk of passing on HIV as long as there’s no blood in them. You can get Hepatitis B or other infections this way. Keep urine and faeces well away from the eyes.