Unprotected anal sex carries a higher risk of getting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) than other kinds of sex. This is particularly the case if you are receiving anal sex. This is because the lining of the anus is thin and tears easily, making you more vulnerable to infection.
There are simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your partner.
Condoms protect you and your partner during anal sex. You can use an external condom (also called a male condom) or an internal condom (also called a female condom) which is inserted into the anus before sex. Some people feel safer using extra-thick condoms for anal sex. You should also put condoms on any sex toys you use and change condoms between partners. Dental dams can protect you during oral-anal sex.
Take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)
PrEP is another way to prevent HIV infection, but remember: it does not protect you or your partner from other STIs. Also, PrEP may not be available everywhere.
A good water-based lube helps to make sex comfortable and to prevent damage to the anus. Oil-based lube (like baby oil or Vaseline) can weaken condoms and make them more likely to break.
Always wash your fingers, penis or sex toys when switching from anal to other types of sex. If you are using an external condom, make sure you use a new one if you move from anal sex to vaginal or oral sex. This is important so that you don't introduce bacteria from the anus to the vagina or the mouth when you move from one area to another.
Some people clean their anus before anal sex because they want to be sure there is no faeces (poo). If you do this, only use water or a mild soap and be very gentle. Otherwise, you might tear or scratch the anus, which can put you at higher risk of STIs.
See a healthcare professional straight away if you’ve had unprotected anal sex and are worried about STIs. You may be able to take post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent HIV infection, but you must take it within 72 hours for it to work. Remember: PEP is not a replacement for condoms and is not available everywhere.
Knowing your HIV and STI status helps protect you and your partner. Have regular tests for HIV and other STIs so that you can get any treatment you might need. If you have HIV and are taking treatment, the level of HIV in your blood can become undetectable. This makes it impossible for you to pass on the virus.