Condoms! Condoms! Condoms! Okay, at this point we all know that the safest way to sex someone up is with protection. Remember that painful demonstration with the banana in your 6th grade health class? Even though it was ridiculously unpleasant, the banana taught us how important it is to use condoms correctly to avoid spreading or contracting STIs. Don’t know if you’re using condoms correctly? Check out this quick video from Planned Parenthood…
Yeah, so condoms are awesome. With perfect use they can be up to 98% effective in preventing pregnancy. And according to the National Institutes of Health, they can up to 85% effective in preventing HIV infections!
But what can you do when you’re in the heat of the moment and there’s no condom to be found? Well, there is a whole menu of sex acts that carry little to no risk for HIV or STI transmission. They include: mutual masturbation, penetration with sex toys (no sharing!), showering together, or rubbing your junk against healthy, unbroken skin. Check out the complete list at http://wso.williams.edu/orgs/peerh/sex/safesex/ssmenu.html.
However, if unprotected intercourse is inevitable there are some ways to reduce your risk of contracting or spreading HIV. But first let’s go over the basics of HIV transmission… First off, HIV has to be present. That means someone had to have been exposed to the virus AND they would have had to contract it in order to potentially spread the virus. Second, there needs to be enough of the virus present. For example, blood can carry a lot of virus, while breast milk does not, so getting blood in an open wound or orifice is going to be much riskier. The fluids that transmit HIV are blood, semen (including pre-cum), breast milk, and vaginal and anal secretions. And lastly, HIV needs to get into the bloodstream for infection to take hold. That means there needs to be a pathway for the virus to get in your body. Skin acts as an awesome barrier! But HIV can enter through open cuts or sores or contact with mucous membranes.
Basically, there are a couple ways in which HIV infection can occur: unprotected vaginal, anal, and oral sex, direct blood contact (like sharing needles), and mother to baby (through birth or through breast milk).
Okay, now that that’s out of the way, here are some ways to reduce the risk of transmission if you’re going to have sex and you don’t have a condom:
1) LUBE! Lube is awesome because it can help reduce friction and it helps prevent things like anal tearing, which creates a pathway for HIV to get into your body. But make sure you’re not using a spermicidal lube because the chemicals in these types of lubricants can actually increase the risk for transmission. Basically, the wetter the better!
**But if you are using latex condoms (awesome!), stay away from oil based lubes and products! The oil in lubes and products like baby oil, petroleum jelly, and oil based lubes weaken latex making more likely that the condom will tear.
2) PULL OUT! Don’t blow your load in or around open sores, cuts, or membranes (yes, this means eyes too). Semen has the potential to carry lots of virus, so pulling out works to disrupt the pathway. However, there is still virus present in pre-cum (if your partner is HIV+), so there is still a risk but pulling out reduces it!
3) PUT DOWN THAT DOUCHE! Douching can irritate the lining of butts and/or front-butts (for the ladies), which makes it more likely for infection to take place. Similarly, don’t brush or floss your teeth less than two hours before or after preforming oral sex. This can cause little cuts and tears in your gums which also create a pathway for HIV infection.
4) GET TESTED! Having an STI makes it easier to contract HIV and vice-versa. ALL STIs are manageable and most are curable! Get tested regularly to better manage your sexual health.
As always, give us a holler if you have questions or want to chat. Call the Oregon HIV/STI Hotline at 800.777.2437, text us at 503.946.6202, or chat online with our live chat feature at http://www.oregonaidshotline.com.