An Introduction to Safer Sex


Written in 2002. For recent informations about HIV and safer sex, please reach out to AlterHéros team or consult The Sex You Want website.

Discussing safer sex and HIV – what activities are safe and less safe, risky or less risky – may be confusing. But at a basic level, you need to be aware that the transmission of HIV occurs through contact with the blood, vaginal or seminal fluids (cum) of a person who is HIV-positive. Whatever kind of sexual activities you are engaged in, what you need to do is assess your level of contact with these fluids.

At present, the highest-risk sexual behaviours are believed to be unprotected sex that can cause tears in the lining of the anus, vagina and mouth (e.g. anal sex, anal or vaginal fisting, vaginal penetration), any activity where blood is shared, sharing sex toys without using condoms or cleaning them, or oral sex with a woman just before, during, or just after menstruation. You also need to be cautious if you have any open cuts or sores.

 

Negotiating safer sex

 

Talking about safer sex with some people is easy. With others, it can be difficult. Telling your sexual partner that you are going to use safer sex practices such as latex gloves, condoms, dental dams, is the clearest way to get a lover to have safer sex, because there is no confusion about how you feel.

Talking about safer sex with some people is easy. With others, it can be difficult. Telling your sexual partner that you are going to use safer sex practices such as latex gloves, condoms, dental dams, is the clearest way to get a lover to have safer sex, because there is no confusion about how you feel.

  • You can show a lover that you practise safe sex by handing them a latex glove, condom or dental dam, or by putting one on them or yourself.
  • Leave condoms latex gloves, dental dams and lube where you can get to them easily, and where they can be seen by your lover.
  • If something is happening that you don’t like, change it.
  • Being subtle can sometimes work, but be prepared to assert yourself with a lover who will not want to practise safer sex.
  • You have the right to decide what happens to your body.

(Adapted from AIDS Vancouver Man to man Pocket Guide)

Some common misconceptions

Bisexuals and gay men spread HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS is not a bisexual, queer or gay disease. It affects people of all orientations. HIV is spread through high-risk activities, not sexual orientation. It is discriminatory to blame HIX/AIDS on any sexual orientation.

Lesbians do not get HIV/AIDS

This is untrue and dangerous. While there is not a lot of documented information, research shows that some women who identify as lesbians have become HIV+ or have AIDS. Apart from high-risk behaviours such as unsafe sex with men or women (yes, some lesbians do sleep with men), some lesbians have been infected from, blood transfusions, injection drug use and artificial insemination. If a woman is HIV+, the virus will be found in the largest quantities in her blood – including menstrual blood — and in moderate quantities in vaginal secretions.

Protease inhibitors are a cure for HIV/AIDS

Protese inhibitors, sometimes known as the new wonder drugs are not a cure for HIV /AIDS. Their long-term safety and effectiveness are not known, and they do not work for all people. They are not an alternative to safer sex.

Only gay men engage in anal sex

Anal sex is not restricted to any particular sexual orientation. Regardless of your orientation, if you are having anal sex, you should have a rectal medical exam at least once a year (see STDs and testing.)

 

 

HIV testing

 

If you are thinking about getting tested for HIV, think about whether you want the test to be anonymous or confidential. If it is anonymous, you don’t have to give), our name or Care Card number. Anonymous testing uses a number or a code on your lab slip – not your name, so only you and the provider who took the test for you will know your test result, or even that you were tested.

If your test is confidential, your name and Care Card number will be on the medical record of the test. If you test HIV+, doctors and laboratories are required to report your name to the Centre for Disease Control.  Before being tested, double check with your provider as to whether your test is anonymous or confidential.

No matter how prepared you think you are to take the test, good counselling is necessary. Before the test, you need someone to answer all your questions, and to make sure you know exactly what the test means, so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not to be tested. After the test, whether you test HIV+ or not, you need someone to talk to about, our results, and effective ways to stay health.

If you are HIV+ and have not yet connected to an organization or group, you may want to call one of the HIV/AIDS organizations listed on the back of this guide.

 

STDs and testing

 

HIV is only one sexually transmitted disease. Other common STDs that one need to be aware of and protect yourself from include gonorrhoea, chlarnydia, genital warts, crabs, lice, and genital infections caused by the herpes virus and Hepatitis B.

STDs that affect the anus and rectum include: rectal gonorrhoea, syphilis, non-specific urethritis and proctitis, and intestinal infections. If you are having anal sex, you should have a rectal exam at least once a year. For listings for information on STDs and clinics for testing consult the Mutual-Aid Network in this website or contact your local CLSC.

Adapted from the document ‘Your Everyday Health Guide: A Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Resource’; Copyright 1998 LGBT Health Association

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