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Staying safe

staying safe

Living with HIV means that you have to think carefully about how to best maintain good long term health, and this includes your sexual health.

What this means to you depends upon the type of sex you’re having.

For instance, if you have lots of different sex partners then preventing the transmission of HIV to others and minimising the risk of catching an STI could be top of your list.

If you’re partner doesn’t have HIV your top concern will probably be keeping them uninfected. But if your partner, like you, has HIV, then the issue may be whether to carry on using condoms or not.

If you decide not to, you both need to consider the possibility of reinfection (one of you giving the other a different strain of HIV). Also talk about the risk of other infections getting passed between you like herpes or hepatitis C (a serious liver infection some people with HIV have).

Whatever the HIV status of your partner, it’s best to talk about whether your relationship will be monogamous or ‘open’ (sex with others is allowed). Monogamy means no worries about infections entering your relationship from outside. But monogamy is built on trust so if one of you breaks your agreement you should tell the other no matter how uncomfortable that may feel. This is especially important if there’s chance an infection could be passed on between you as a result of sex with other people.

An open relationship also rests on trust. You may have an agreement about what kind of sex with other people is allowed (eg, only with condoms to cut the risk of infections), If this agreement is broken hiding it is dishonest and risks one of you getting an infection.

Regular check ups for STIs are advised if your relationship is not monogamous

Using drugs or regularly drinking alcohol can lower your inhibitions and make you more likely to take sexual risks. Support groups exist to help you, whatever the reason for your risk-taking.

Being HIV positive doesn’t mean that you are immune from other infections. Condoms are the best way to stop yourself being infected with other STIs such as Hepatitis C, which can greatly complicate and hinder your treatment. It is also worth bearing in mind that your long term emotional health is very important, and the peace of mind that safer sex brings can help reinforce this.

If you find safer sex difficult you are not alone - many people have problems with this; but help is available from counsellors.

 

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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 31/10/2012 by P. Kelly

Date due for the next review: 31/10/2014

Content Author: S. Ellis

Current Owner: S. Ellis

More information:

Guzman, R., Colfax, G.N., Wheeler, S., Mansergh, G., Marks, G., Rader, M. & Buchbinder, S. (2005) Negotiated Safety Relationships and Sexual Behaviour Among a Diverse Sample of HIV-Negative Men Who Have Sex With Men Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes 38(1)82-86

Casual sex study calls for interventions, European AIDS Treatment Group (2010)

Jin, F., Crawford, J., Prestage, G.P., Zablotska, I., Imrie, J., Kippax, S.C., Kaldor, J.M. & Grulich, A.E. (2009) Unprotected Anal Intercourse: Rish Reduction Behaviours, HIV Infection AIDS 23(2):243-252

 Kippax, S., Noble, J., Prestage, G., Crawford, J., Campbell, D., Baxter, D. & Cooper, D. (1997) Sexual negotiation in the AIDS era: negotiated safety revisited AIDS 11:191-197