Straight, No Chaser: Your HIV and STD Risks From Specific Acts of Sexual Intercourse

stirisks

Let’s be clear that we’re explicitly discussing the types of sexual behaviors that will lead to transmitting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Over the next two days, we will run the gamut of sexual behavior and its implications.

This is the fourth in an ongoing series on HIV and AIDS.

  • For an explanation of what AIDS is, click here.
  • For an explanation of how HIV is contracted, click here.
  • For an explanation of the signs and symptoms of HIV/AIDS, click here.

What I hope to accomplish here is to identify those activities that place you at significant risk for contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections  (STIs). The take-home message is you really should identify your partner’s health status before you begin sexual activity.

Today we will focus on four types of sexual activity and discuss the risks of each. Let’s start with some terminology.

  • Receptive sex risks speak to risks to the receiver.
  • Insertive sex risks speak to risks to the giver.
  • Bottoming is a way of describing receptive anal sex.
  • Topping is a way of describing insertive anal sex.

Now, let’s review.

Receptive Vaginal Sex

  • Vaginal sex without a condom is a high-risk behavior for HIV infection.
  • HIV is transmitted from men to women much more easily than from women to men during vaginal sex, but the risks are significant for both.
  • If you currently have an STI or vaginal infection, your risk for contracting/transmitting HIV is increased because your tissue will be inflamed. This has nothing to do with the presence or absence of symptoms.
  • Female condoms protect HIV infection if used correctly. However, the risk still exists for any area exposed and infected (in the presence of an open sore or bleeding, for example).
  • Barrier birth control methods (such as diaphragms, IUDs and cervical caps) DO NOT protect against STIs or HIV infection. If infected semen or sperm contracts inflamed or otherwise injured vaginal tissue, the risk of transmission/contraction is present.
  • Birth control pills do not protect against HIV or other STIs.

Insertive Vaginal Sex

  • HIV is transmitted from men to women much more easily than from women to men during vaginal sex, but the risks are significant for both.
  • Condom use is a critical means of protection against STIs that are present without obvious symptoms. Use condoms with a water-based lubricant every time you have insertive vaginal sex to prevent STIs, including HIV.

Receptive Anal Sex (Bottoming)

  • Bottoming without a condom provides the highest risk for contracting HIV, more so than any other sexual behavior.
  • HIV has been identified in pre-ejaculatory semen. “Pulling out” prior to ejaculation may not decrease your risk.
  • Rectal douching before anal sex can increase your HIV risk. Douching irritates the rectal tissue and can make you more receptive to contracting HIV. Soap and water in a non-abrasive manner are adequate means of cleanliness.
  • If bottoming, you will best minimize the risk of transmitting HIV and other STIs by always using a water-based lubricant with a latex, polyurethane, or polyisoprene condom. This will help to minimize irritation to the rectum during sex and subsequent transmission.

Insertive Anal Sex (Topping)

  • Topping without a condom is a high-risk behavior for transmission of HIV and other STIs. An infection may be present. If small sores, scratches or tears are also present, they would provide a ready path of entry and transmission of HIV.
  • Similarly, those same lesions in your partners rectum could harbor infected cells in blood, feces or other fluid, which, when contacted, could infect you through your penis.

Check back for the next post in this series on HIV/AIDS. It will focus on HIV and STD risks from sexual activities other than intercourse.

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Filed under Genital/Urinary, Infectious Disease, Obstetrics and Gynecology