Like it or not, having sex can be a risky business. That risk can range from nearly non-existent (i.e. having sex with someone you’ve known for decades, whom you know is HIV negative, and in whose fidelity you have confidence) to extremely risky (i.e. having unprotected anal intercourse with somebody you don’t know well and whose HIV status is unknown). There’s a wide gray area between these two extremes, however, so it pays to err on the side of caution—as unsexy as that may sound.
Here’s how you can protect yourself (and your partner):
- Know your own HIV status and get re-tested if you’ve engaged in any type of risky behavior since your last test
- Know the HIV status of your partner
- Know whether your partner has any other STDs or has had them in the past (i.e. herpes)
- Avoid sex if your partner has any signs of active infection (i.e. sores on or around the mouth or genitals)
- Use a condom with a lubricant each and every time you have sex with anybody who is at all likely to carry an STD — it only takes a single act of unprotected sex to acquire (or transmit) an infection
- Consider having your partner use a female condom (though note that these are not quite as effective, on average, for preventing pregnancy as male condoms)