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Sexual Health Center

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Preventing HIV and Other STDs With Safe Sex

Do you think that practicing safe sex takes the joy out of sex? It doesn't have to. Safe sex practices simply combine the greatest pleasure with the least risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as herpes or syphilis. Safe sex can actually enhance your sex life by increasing communication and trust between you and your sexual partners.


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What Is the Safest Sex?

The safest way to prevent HIV or STIs, of course, is abstinence, which is no sex at all. Next, the safest sex is sex that is shared between two people who are not infected with any STIs (including HIV), who only have sex with each other, and who don't use injectable drugs. If your partner is infected with HIV or another STI, or you don't know your partner's sexual history, the safest sexual activities include:

  • Fantasizing or having phone sex
  • Touching your own body erotically (masturbation) or having each partner touch his or her own body (mutual masturbation)
  • Caressing your partner using nonsexual massage
  • Rubbing against your partner's body with clothes on
  • Kissing

What Is Safe Sex?

Safer sexual intercourse carries some risk, but it is much, much safer than taking no precautions at all. In short, safe sex means not allowing your partner's semen or vaginal secretions to get inside of your vagina, anus, penis, or mouth. It also means avoiding genital skin-to-skin contact. That's because some STIs are spread just by skin-to-skin contact. Safe sex also means taking precautions if you have cuts, sores, or bleeding gums; these can increase the risk of spreading HIV.

Safe sex is protected sex during each and every sexual encounter. It includes:

  • Oral sex with a condom, dental dam, or plastic wrap
  • Vaginal sex with a male or female condom
  • Anal sex with a male or female condom

What If You and Your Partner Are Both HIV Positive?

You might think you don't need to practice safe sex if both you and your partner have HIV. But practicing safe sex will help protect you from other STIs. It will also protect you against other strains of HIV, which might not respond well to medication.

The guidelines below will help partners with HIV, as well as uninfected partners who want to avoid getting HIV or an STI.

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