Safer sex is any kind of sexual activity that reduces the chances of becoming infected, “superinfected” (getting a different strain of a virus you already have), or transmitting HIV, hepatitis C or other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Many activities – such as hugging, kissing, massage and touching – are completely safe for HIV. No one has ever been infected with HIV, or passed on HIV, from these sexual activities. However, it’s possible to get or pass on certain other STIs from these activities.
Fucking (anal or vaginal sex) without a latex condom is an easy way to become infected, or to infect someone else with HIV and other STIs. These activities are considered “high risk” sexual activities for HIV transmission. They can be made much safer by using a latex condom and water-based lubricant.
For other sexual activities, the chances of getting, or passing on HIV are small. These activities (like performing oral sex on someone) are considered “low risk” for HIV. Oral sex can be made even safer by using a latex condom for oral sex on a man, or a latex barrier (such as a dental dam) for oral sex on a woman. Using latex barriers not only protects you from getting or passing on HIV, but it also reduces your risks for other STIs and hepatitis C. In the case of rimming (licking someone’s ass hole), using a dental dam will eliminate your risk for hepatitis A and the possibility of picking up parasites.
If you are living with HIV, using condoms for sexual intercourse, never sharing dildos, and using gloves for fisting are important for stopping the sexual spread of hepatitis C between people living with HIV.
(The above information in this section on prevention is reproduced with the permission of the AIDS Committee of Toronto.)
If you drink alcohol or use drugs, it’s good to be aware of how they may affect sensations of pleasure/pain and getting and keeping an erection. Sometimes alcohol or other drugs may affect your decisions about what sexual activities you have and whether they are protected.
Some partners that have been together for awhile and have been using condoms may want to stop using them. If they do make this decision, they should get tested for STIs including HIV to confirm they are negative before stopping condom use. Testing is important because so many STIs have no symptoms. For example, about a quarter of the people living with HIV do not know they have it, even though they may have had some symptoms when they first got HIV. Sometimes partners do not use condoms with each other, but are having or want to have sex with others. They should discuss the kind of sexual activity that takes place with others and the use of condoms. Deciding on your limits and being able to talk about your limits with sexual partners is an important step in reducing your risk of getting HIV and/or an STI.
For more information go to the AIDS Committee of Toronto website www.thesexyouwant.ca or call the AIDS and Sexual Health InfoLine at 1-800-668-2437 (English and multilingual line) or 1-800-267-7432 (French line) or check out the Resources section of this site.