My Sex Life: Info for Young Poz People
Using protection such as condoms, gloves and dental dams decreases the chances of getting or passing an STI.
If we do get an STI (which happens to a lot of people), most of the time it's not a big deal. STIs are easily treated. When living with HIV, staying on top of our sexual health, protecting our bits and knowing about STIs can be important because:
"The good news is that unlike HIV, treatments for hep C can clear (cure) the virus."
Hep C is a virus that is passed by blood-to-blood contact and can be passed when you share substance-use equipment, when you have rough, unprotected sex, or when you share other things that could have blood on them like toothbrushes, razors and tattooing and piercing equipment.
If you think you're at risk for hep C, you may want to consider asking your healthcare provider to test you because hep C and HIV can be tricky to deal with at the same time.
"Testing is a good idea for everyone!"
When we're living with HIV and sexually active, getting tested for STIs regularly (once a year or more frequently if we think we're at risk) is a great way to detect STIs early and get them treated. Between regular checkups, we should get tested immediately for STIs if we have symptoms or think we've been exposed. It's important to be in charge of our own sexual health regardless of what our partners tell us. It's also a good idea to encourage our sexual partners to get their regular checkups too.
It's our right to receive respectful and supportive healthcare, and our healthcare provider should provide testing to us when we ask for it. Sadly, this isn't always the case. If your healthcare provider is judgmental, asks too many questions, or will not provide you the tests you want, it may be time to find a healthcare provider who is more supportive. Get recommendations from people you trust. You can also check out the resource section of this booklet for agencies that can help connect you to testing.
"My boyfriend talks dirty to me about how he is going to do me without a condom, just before we have sex. He tells me he is going to cum inside me, and I find it really hot. The whole time he is putting on a thin rubber and lubing his penis. Talking about it is hot, but we still need to protect each other."
Sometimes focusing on using protection can be a turnoff, so it's a good idea to incorporate barriers into foreplay. Make it fun by thinking about having sex with your partner and how hot they are as you slip the barrier into place.
Condoms are an effective way to prevent HIV. They come with the added bonus of preventing STIs and pregnancy. All that safety in one little piece of latex! If you and your partner have decided to use condoms and are struggling, don't give up! It can be hard to have protected sex all the time, so remember, having protected sex as often as possible is better than not at all!
Some people don't like to use condoms. They may use different strategies instead, like monogamy or sero-sorting (see below). Those kinds of decisions should be made with full knowledge of the risks involved and responsibility for those risks.
If you are using safer sex materials like condoms, lubes, gloves and dental dams (more on these coming up), keep them close for those hot and heavy moments. If they are accessible, we're more likely to use them, especially if we have sex under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
"Having protected sex as often as possible is better than not at all!"
Dental dams are squares of latex or other materials that can be used as barriers to cover your bits when performing oral sex. Dams can be made by cutting the head off a condom and slicing it along its length to make a barrier or by cutting medical gloves open.
Some people use non-microwaveable plastic wrap because it's cheaper, but it hasn't been proven scientifically to act as a barrier against STIs. Whatever barriers we use, we should make sure we know which side is ours and which is our partner's and keep using it that way.
Lube it up! Using lots of lube makes sex more enjoyable for everyone.
Sex toys can be a lot of fun. They are a great way to expand our pleasure solo or together with a partner. There are some things we need to consider when using them, though:
There is more variety available than ever before so try to do your research online and visit sex shops where you feel you can trust the service staff to answer your questions.
When a person living with HIV goes down on or gives head to their partners, the risk that HIV will pass to their partners is small. Oral sex is a much lower risk than vaginal, frontal or anal sex for passing HIV.
Oral sex is not all risk-free, though, because other STIs, like herpes, gonorrhea and syphilis can still be passed when we're going down on someone else.
If your HIV-negative partner goes down on you with cuts or sores in or around their mouth, or with bleeding gums, it increases their HIV risk. Waiting 30 minutes after brushing or flossing teeth before having sex can reduce risk because there can be bleeding from gums that you might not notice. Cuts, sores or abrasions in the mouth need longer to heal.
If you want someone to put their mouth on your bits:
This article was provided by Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange. Visit CATIE's Web site to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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