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Sex and HIV

Vaginal and anal sex is the most common way HIV is passed on from person to person. But there are steps you can take to have sex and protect yourself and others from HIV. Meaning sex can be as fun and pleasurable as it should be.  

Am I at risk of HIV?

Some types of sex have more HIV risk than others. The best way to protect yourself is to use a condom every time you have sex. You can also take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

What’s the risk of getting HIV from anal sex?

Unprotected anal sex has the biggest HIV risk because the lining of the anus is more delicate than the lining of the vagina. This means it is more easily damaged, providing an easier route for HIV to enter the body. Receptive anal sex (‘bottoming’) carries more risk than insertive anal sex (‘topping’). 

What’s the risk of getting HIV from vaginal sex?

Both male and female partners can get HIV from unprotected vaginal sex. The risk of getting and passing on HIV through vaginal sex increases during menstruation (your period)

Can you get HIV from oral sex?

The risk of getting HIV from unprotectedoral sex is extremely low. It only poses a risk if the person giving oral sex has mouth ulcers, sores or bleeding gums, or the person receiving oral sex has sores on their genitals.

Can you get HIV from sex toys, fingering, fisting?

Sex toys, such as dildos, come into direct contact with rectal/vaginal fluids and mucous membranes. This means sharing an uncleaned dildo or other toy can pass on HIV. Using sex toys on your own has no risk.  

There is no direct risk of HIV from fingering or fisting (unless you have open cuts or sores on your hands), but be aware of being rough. Damage to the anus/vaginal especially if there is any bleeding, will increase risk of HIV transmission if you then have anal, vaginal or oral sex later. 

Can you get HIV from kissing?

There is such a small amount of HIV in the saliva of a person with HIV that the infection can’t be passed on from kissing. 

Am I more at risk of HIV if I have more than one partner?

Having multiple sexual partners increases the risk of HIV infection through sex if you are not using protection such as condoms or PrEP

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How do I talk to someone about their HIV risk?

How we all understand our own HIV risk is complicated and may be influenced by different factors. Being at risk of getting HIV may be connected to both your environment (for example living in a community with high HIV incidence) and individual circumstances (for example having a partner with untreated HIV).  

For many people, their HIV risk will change over time as will their personal circumstances, meaning that different HIV prevention methods will suit them at different times. 

If you are talking to someone about sex and HIV risk it is important to be supportive and non-judgemental. Avoid making anyone feel guilty for anything they might have done or experienced in the past. Instead, help them think through what actions they may want to take from now on to protect their sexual health and explain the different options they have.  

It is helpful to understand what their concerns and priorities are. For example, many young people may be more interested in preventing unwanted pregnancy and keeping a partner happy than in preventing HIV. Talk about HIV risk and prevention within the context of their wider sexual health priorities. This will make it easier for them to follow steps to protect themselves as they will feel relevant to their personal situation and priorities. 

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  • Last updated: 06 April 2022
  • Last full review: 01 March 2022
  • Next full review: 01 March 2025
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