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Safer Sex Guidelines

June 1999

Whether your partner is female or male, HIV-positive or HIV-negative, practicing safer sex is important to both you and your partner's health. That's because HIV, including drug-resistant HIV, can be found in semen and vaginal fluids. This can occur even if your or your partner's viral load is below the limit of detection.

Practicing safer sex also reduces the risk of transmitting or contracting other diseases, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and hepatitis B. These can be especially troublesome in people with weakened immune systems. A few tips on how to protect yourself and your partner during sex are found below.

  • One word: Plastics!
    Use latex condoms and plenty of water-based lubricant (K-Y Jelly®, Astroglide®, Probe®) for vaginal and anal sex. If you have a sensitivity (allergy) to latex, try polyurethane condoms (Avanti®). The female condom (Reality®) is also made of polyurethane. (Polyurethane condoms may have higher breakage problems than latex.)

  • Protect the environment and your condoms!
    Don't use oil-containing lubricant products (Crisco®, Vaseline®, baby oil, lotion, whipped cream) as they can destroy latex. (Note: oil-based lubes can be safely used with polyurethane condoms). Good water-based lubricants last longer and often feel better anyway.

  • Read the label!
    Many women avoid products containing Nonoxynol-9 (a spermicide) as some studies show it can cause irritation that may promote STD infections, including HIV infection.

  • Wrap it to go!
    For oral sex with a man, it's safest to use a condom. For oral sex with a woman or oral-anal sex (rimming), it's safest to use a dental dam (latex square), plastic food wrap, or a condom or latex glove cut to produce a flat sheet.

  • Try a sugar-free breath mint instead!
    Avoid brushing or flossing your teeth up to two hours before or after oral sex to minimize abrasions. Be aware of bleeding gums, cuts or sores on or in the mouth.

  • Let your fingers do the walking!
    Use latex gloves for hand jobs (sex with your hands) or fisting. Try powder-free latex or polyurethane gloves for folks with latex sensitivity.

  • Good clean fun!
    If you share sex toys (like dildos or vibrators), put on a fresh condom for each user and/or when going from anus to vagina. Clean toys with bleach, alcohol, or soap and water between uses.

  • Play in the wild side!
    Avoid contact with blood, semen, and vaginal secretions. Sex toys like whips or knives can break the skin and should not be used on another person until they're disinfected with bleach or a cleaning solution.

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