WHAT IS SAFER SEX?
Safer sex’ refers to things that a person can do to minimise their risk of HIV infection during sexual intercourse; most importantly, using condoms consistently and correctly.
A person can be certain that they are protected against HIV infection by choosing not to have sex at all, or by only doing things that do not involve any blood or sexual fluid from one person getting into another person's body. This kind of sexual activity is the only thing that can be considered ‘safe sex’.
Safer sex involves taking measures to prevent the transmission of STIs during sexual contact. Common methods of safer sex are using a condom for vaginal and anal penetration (sexual intercourse), and using dental dams for oral sex.
Using such protection prevents bodily fluids that carry STIs like HIV from being exchanged during sex. Although condoms and dental dams are not 100% safe, if used properly, they have been proven to be highly effective ways of preventing the transmission of STIs.
WHAT IS HIV?
HIV stands for "Human Immunodeficiency Virus"
HIV is a virus. Viruses such as HIV cannot grow or reproduce on their own, they need to infect the cells of a living organism in order to replicate (make new copies of themselves). The human immune system usually finds and kills viruses fairly quickly, but HIV attacks the immune system itself - the very thing that would normally get rid of a virus.
With around 2.5 million people becoming infected with HIV in 2011, there are now an estimated 34 million people around the world who are living with HIV, including millions who have developed AIDS.
Connection between HIV & AIDS
The condition that is referred to as AIDS is caused by HIV damaging the immune system cells until the immune system can no longer fight off other infections that it would usually be able to prevent.
If left untreated, it takes around ten years on average for someone with HIV to develop AIDS. However, this average is based on the person with HIV having a reasonable diet, and someone who is malnourished may well progress from HIV to AIDS more rapidly.
How is HIV passed on?
HIV is found in the blood and the sexual fluids of an infected person, and in the breast milk of an infected woman. HIV transmission occurs when a sufficient quantity of these fluids get into someone else's bloodstream.
There are various ways a person can become infected with HIV:
Unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected person: Sexual intercourse without a condom carries the risk of HIV infection.
Contact with an infected person's blood: If sufficient blood from somebody who has HIV enters someone else's body, then HIV can be passed on in the blood.
Use of infected blood products: Many people in the past have been infected with HIV by the use of blood transfusions and blood products which were contaminated with the virus. In much of the world this is no longer a significant risk, as blood donations are routinely tested for HIV.
Injecting drugs: HIV can be passed on when injecting equipment that has been used by an infected person is then used by someone else. In many parts of the world, often because it is illegal to possess them, injecting equipment or works are shared.
From mother to child: HIV can be transmitted from an infected woman to her baby during pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding.
Certain groups of people, such as injecting drug users, sex workers, prisoners, and men who have sex with men have been particularly affected by HIV. However, HIV can infect anybody, and everyone needs to know how they can and can't become infected with HIV.
How to Avoid HIV Infection
Know your HIV status and your partner's status
Avoid Vaginal & Anal Sex
Limit sex to one uninfected partner
Use latex condoms
Avoid injectable Illegal drugs or shared needles
Avoid intoxication from drugs or alcohol
Taking simple steps to prevent getting or spreading HIV will pay off both for you and for those you love. The only 100 percent effective way to prevent the spread of HIV through sex is to abstain — to not have sex of any kind. If you do have sex, practice safer sex methods. These are the steps you can take to help prevent HIV infection from sex:
Abstain from sex. Not having vaginal, anal, or oral sex is the surest way to avoid HIV. If you do decide to have sex, you can reduce your risk of HIV by practicing safer sex.
Get tested. Be sure you know yours and your partner's HIV status before ever having sex.
Use condoms. Use them correctly and every time you have sex. Using a male condom for all types of sex can greatly lower your risk of getting HIV during sex. If you or your partner is allergic to latex, use polyurethane condoms. If your partner won't use a male condom, you can use a female condom. It may protect against HIV, but we don't have much evidence that it does, so it is better to use a male condom, which we know has a high rate of preventing HIV infection. Do not use a male and female condom at the same time. They do not work together and can break. "Natural" or "lambskin" condoms don't protect against HIV. Condoms are easy to find, and some places give them out for free. Contact your local health department or a health clinic for information about places in your area that may give away free condoms. For instance, the New York State Health Department offers a cellphone app that can help youth find free condoms in their area.
Talk with your partner. Learn how to talk with your sexual partner about HIV and using condoms. It's up to you to make sure you are protected. Remember, it's your body!
Practice monogamy (be faithful to one partner). Being in a sexual relationship with only one partner who is also faithful to you can help protect you.
Limit your number of sexual partners. Your risk of getting HIV goes up with the number of partners you have. Condoms should be used for any sexual activity with a partner who has HIV. They should also be used with any partner outside of a long-term, faithful sexual relationship.
Use protection for all kinds of sexual contact. Remember that you don't only get HIV from penile-vaginal sex. Use a condom during oral sex and during anal sex. Dental dams also can be used to help lower your risk as well as your partner's risk of getting HIV during oral-vaginal or oral-anal sex.
Know that other types of birth control will not protect you from HIV. Other methods of birth control, like birth control pills, shots, implants, or diaphragms, will not protect you from HIV. If you use one of these, be sure to also use a male condom or dental dam correctly every time you have sex.
Don't use nonoxynol-9 (N-9). Some contraceptives, like condoms, suppositories, foams, and gels contain the spermicide N-9. You shouldn't be using gels, foams, or suppositories to prevent against HIV — these methods only lower chances of pregnancy, not of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). N-9 actually makes your risk of HIV infection higher, because it can irritate the vagina, which might make it easier for HIV to get into your body.
Get screened for STIs. Having an STI, particularly genital herpes, increases your chances of becoming infected with HIV during sex. If your partner has an STI in addition to HIV, that also increases your risk of HIV infection. If you have an STI, you should also get tested for HIV.
Don't douche. Douching removes some of the normal bacteria in the vagina that protects you from infection. This can increase your risk of getting HIV.
Don't abuse alcohol or drugs, which are linked to sexual risk-taking. Drinking too much alcohol or using drugs also puts you at risk of sexual assault and possible exposure to HIV.