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What is 'safer sex'

for Veterans and the Public

What is 'safer sex'?

We know a lot about how HIV is transmitted from person to person. Having safer sex means you take this into account and avoid risky practices.

There are two reasons to practice safer sex: to protect yourself and to protect others.

Protecting yourself

If you have HIV, you need to protect your health. When it comes to sex, this means practicing safer sex to avoid sexually transmitted diseases like herpes, hepatitis, and even HIV. HIV makes it harder for your body to fight off diseases. What might be a small health problem for someone without HIV could be big health problem for you.

Practicing safer sex can protect you from getting re-infected or "super-infected" with a different strain of HIV. Some strains are resistant to certain drugs, so getting a new strain of HIV could make the disease harder to treat. Experts believe that re-infection is possible although not very likely, but researchers are continuing to study the issue.

Protecting your partner

Taking care of others means making sure that you do not pass along HIV to them. If your sex partners already have HIV, you should still avoid infecting them with a different strain of HIV or with another sexually transmitted disease you may be carrying.

Most people would agree that you owe it to your sexual partners to tell them that you have HIV. This is being honest with them. Even though it can be very hard to do, in the long run you will probably feel much better about yourself.

Some people with HIV have found that people who love them think that unsafe sex is a sign of greater love or trust. If someone offers to have unsafe sex with you, it is still up to you to protect them by being safe.

To protect yourself and others, the rules are pretty simple, but you might need to make some changes. Because anal and vaginal sex have the highest risk of transmitting HIV, it is important that you use a condom every time you have anal or vaginal sex.