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Preventing STIs including HIV/AIDS: Safer Sex

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Preventing STIs including HIV/AIDS: Safer Sex

What is safer sex?
What is the most dangerous kind of sex?
What are some forms of safer sex?
What types of condoms should be used for safer sex?
How should male condoms be used?
How should female condoms be used?
Further information about safer sex

What is safer sex?

Safer sex includes practices that reduce the risk of contracting STIs, including HIV (the virus that causes AIDS). These practices reduce contact with the partner's body fluids, including ejaculate from a man's penis (semen), vaginal fluids, blood, and other types of discharge from open sores. Safer sex reduces but does not totally eliminate risk. For example, using a condom correctly and every time for vaginal, anal, or oral sex greatly reduces, but does not totally eliminate, the risk of transmission.

What is the most dangerous kind of sex?

Unprotected anal and vaginal sex with an infected person carries a high risk of disease transmission. Anal sex is especially risky because it can result in tiny tears or cuts in the rectum. Viruses can enter the body more easily through these open sores than through healthy skin. Unprotected oral sex carries a lower risk, but is not risk-free. The use of drugs or alcohol can increase the risk of getting an STI or HIV/AIDS because people under the influence may be less careful about practicing safer sex.

What are some forms of safer sex?

Very low or no risk

  • Kissing
  • Massage
  • Masturbation
  • Sexual stimulation using your hand on another person
  • Oral sex on a man who is wearing a condom
  • Oral sex on a woman who is wearing a dental dam or plastic wrap

Low risk

  • Vaginal and anal sex using a latex or polyurethane male or female condom

Using condoms is the most effective way of preventing sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS or other STIs. The only thing safer is abstinence from vaginal or anal intercourse. It is probably safe to have sex without a condom when both partners are free of STIs (including HIV) and they are not having sex with other partners. Remember, it is necessary to have an HIV test 6 months after engaging in risky sexual behaviors to be sure that you are HIV-negative. In addition, some STIs do not have symptoms for a long time so it is impossible to know for sure if you are infected unless you are tested. However, getting a partner's sexual history can be difficult and unreliable. People may not be honest because of fear or shame. Sometimes a partner may have an STI or HIV but is unaware of it because he or she does not have any symptoms.

What types of condoms should be used for safer sex?

Male condoms are fitted on the male penis and female condoms are fitted inside the vagina. Condoms should be made from latex or polyurethane. Condoms made from animal tissue ("natural skin" condoms) are not recommended, because viruses can pass through microscopic holes or pores in these condoms. The use of spermicidally lubricated condoms has not been proven to increase effectiveness in reducing transmission of infection.

How should male condoms be used?

Male condoms are cheap and effective. There are many types of condoms of different thicknesses and shapes to suit individual preferences. Some countries have more variety available than others. Condoms should be fresh and can only be used once (check the expiration date on the back of the package, or, if there is a manufacture date, do not use if more than five years old). Never use condoms that are stiff, sticky, have been exposed to extreme temperatures, or if the package is damaged or the seal is broken. If lubrication is used, it should be water-based (such as K-Y jelly). Never use oil-based substances, such as petroleum jelly, butter, and vegetable oils. Condoms must be put on before penetration, and must be used correctly every time sexual intercourse occurs. For specific instructions on how to put on a condom, see AVSC instructions to condom use.

How should female condoms be used?

The female condom has two rings, one at either end of a polyurethane (plastic) tube that is sealed at one end. The closed ring is inserted deep inside the vagina over the cervix and the ring at the open end remains outside of the body. The plastic sheath lines the walls of the vagina. The female condom, like the male condom, must be inserted before penetration and must be used correctly every time sexual intercourse occurs. It is possible to use any type of lubricant with the female condom, although water-based lubricants are healthier. The female condom comes lubricated, and is often sold with additional lubricant in case it is needed.

For further information about safer sex:



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