HIV and Sex
You’ve probably heard about the virus called HIV.
Anyone can have HIV, but it is passed on more often between guys during sex.
HIV stands for “human immunodeficiency virus.”
It’s a virus that infects the body’s blood cells and weakens your immune system. Your immune system is what protects you from illness. HIV makes it harder for the body to take care of itself, and can make you very sick if you don’t get treatment.
There’s no cure for HIV, but it can be treated and managed with medication.
If a guy with HIV doesn’t get treatment, it can become AIDS, which is really bad for your health and can lead to death.
People living with HIV are HIV-positive, and sometimes call themselves poz for short. You might also see or hear guys say they’re undetectable – sounds cool right? More on that later! People who don’t have the virus are HIV-negative. There’s nothing wrong with having HIV, and most poz guys have healthy lives like anyone else, including fulfilling relationships and sex.
Still, having HIV can be hard, and changes the way poz people have to take care of themselves. That’s why it’s good for all guys to know how HIV works and how to stop it from being passed on.
HIV affects our community more than others.
Over half of all new HIV cases in Canada are in guys who like guys, and a quarter of all new HIV cases are in people between 15 and 29, so it’s good for you to know more about HIV so that you can be better prepared when you have sex!
HIV is passed through cum and blood, but not through other fluids in our body like pee or spit.
Sex is one of the big ways people can become HIV-positive. Some kinds of sex make it more likely for HIV to be passed on, like bottoming – that’s because the inside of our ass is soft and can tear easily especially if we aren’t using condoms and lube. Pulling out during sex is also not effective in preventing HIV because HIV can still be passed on through cum or pre-cum.
Other types of sex, like blow jobs aren’t likely to cause HIV to be passed on – but you can still get other STIs! Hand jobs, kissing, hugging, touching, and cuddling each other won’t put you at risk for HIV.
Guys use a lot of different strategies to stop HIV from being passed on through sex.
It’s good to know what they are so you can talk about them and be ready. It’s an exciting time with so many options!
Using condoms is an easy and safe way to hook up. They’re really good at stopping HIV and most STIs, as well as stopping pregnancy.
Condoms slide over a guy’s dick to prevent semen from getting inside the other person. They’re easy to get, free at community and public health organizations, and they’re your best bet for preventing HIV and other STIs. Use condoms when having anal sex or frontal sex.
There is also an “insertive” condom that guys can put in their asshole or frontal hole before sex. This is one way for a guy who is bottoming to take the lead on using a condom. Trans guys sometimes prefer to use insertive condoms as well. They can sometimes be hard to find and are more expensive, but the feeling can be great when it’s in you.
There are a few important things to remember when you use a condom, so you can move on to the fun stuff.
- If you’re having anal sex, condoms are your best bet to prevent HIV and STIs. Use them!
- Condoms have a date on them to tell you when it’s not safe to use anymore. Double check, and don’t use a condom that is expired.
- Make sure the condom is all the way on. The best way is to pinch the tip and roll it down over your dick or the other guy’s dick.
- If you feel like you cum too quickly, practice jerking off with a condom on and get used to the feeling- sometimes they can help you last longer!
- Only use one condom at a time — wearing more than one at the same time can cause them to break, even if they are different kinds of condom. Broken condoms don’t work!
You can only use a condom once. Sometimes they fall off or break during sex, so check to see it’s still on when having sex. If it comes off or it breaks, open up a new one.
- You can try to put a little bit of water-based or silicone-based lube inside the condom. It’s more comfortable for some guys! Vaseline or other oil-based lubes might make the condom break and should not be used.
- Condoms only work if you use them. If you don’t use condoms, using other prevention methods is even more important, and you should still get tested regularly.
- If you are having group sex, or sex with multiple partners, change condoms between people every time.
There are lots of different types of condoms — condoms with flavours for blowjobs, condoms without latex for people with allergies, condoms with different textures!
Lubricant, or “lube” for short, is a slippery liquid that makes it easier for different body parts to slide together. Lube makes it easier to slide your dick or fingers into a hole. It also makes you less likely to tear or rough up the skin inside a person’s anal or frontal hole. Using lube is more comfortable, and also lowers the chance of passing on HIV and other STIs. You can never use too much. Spit is not a good substitute for lube.
There are different kinds of lube: water-based, silicone-based, and oil-based. Oil-based lubes like Vaseline can break condoms, so they should not be used. Water-based and silicone-based lube is available for free at some sexual health clinics and community-based HIV organizations.
Some organizations also distribute free condoms and lube at gay bars, clubs, and bathhouses. You can also buy condoms and lube at a grocery store or pharmacy, sometimes in the “family planning” section.
PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis)
If you think you’ve contracted HIV, there is a medication called PEP that can prevent HIV from taking hold in your body.
PEP is when a guy takes HIV medication within the first three days (72 hours) after they may have been exposed to HIV.
The sooner you take PEP, the more effective it is! You’ll have to take a pill every day for about a month.
Here are some example scenarios when PEP may be needed:
- You were really drunk or high and didn’t use a condom.
- You didn’t stick to your safer sex plan and are worried.
- You don’t know if the other person was poz or not.
- The condom broke during sex.
- You were sexually assaulted.*
If you think you’ve been at risk for becoming HIV-positive, go to your local emergency room and ask to speak with an infectious disease doctor to see if PEP is right for you.
*If you have been sexually assaulted, you can also tell the person prescribing you PEP that you would like to talk to a counselor about this. Remember, you are not alone.
PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) 💊
PrEP is a daily pill to stop you from getting HIV.
PrEP is used by HIV-negative guys. When a guy takes these meds, it stops HIV from taking hold in the body.
PrEP needs to be prescribed and is not for everyone. PrEP is used for people who know they are at a high risk of getting HIV.
For example, PrEP is used by guys who:
- Have a hard time using condoms
- Enjoy condomless sex
- Are having lots of anonymous sex partners
- Want to give up condoms with a regular partner
- Are dating a poz person
- Use drugs when having sex
- Know they are at high risk for getting HIV.
PrEP can be expensive, and requires a conversation with a doctor, so it’s not super common for younger guys to be using it. However, more and more guys are taking PrEP, so it’s good to know what it means.
You may hear some guys call themselves undetectable – it doesn’t mean they’re invisible! 😉
When a poz person takes HIV treatment medication, over time, the amount of HIV in their body can become so low that he can’t pass on HIV to another guy. This normally happens when a poz guy has been working with a doctor for a while to look after his health. These guys will refer to themselves as being undetectable, and having an undetectable viral load.
Undetectable works as well as a condom, but it’s not something you can see. Poz guys find out from their doctors if they’re undetectable through blood testing. Even if one guy is poz and undetectable, it’s still the best idea to stick to your routine of safer sex practices to protect you from getting other STIs.
The first step in preventing HIV – and having a better sex life! – is having a conversation with yourself. 💭
- Do I want to have sex?
- What do I want to do? Oral, anal, touching?
- What is my HIV status? How do I know?
- Should I get tested for HIV? When?
- Am I planning to use condoms?
- How am I going to start a conversation about HIV status or condoms if the other guy doesn’t?
- What will make sex feel good now, and what will make me feel relaxed about sex after I’m done?
- Are we on the same page about using condoms?
The next step is having the talk with a guy you’re dating or hooking up with. 👨❤️💋👨
Get into a little sexy talk! You can ask him:
- What turns you on? What are you into?
- Do you know your HIV status?
- When was the last time you got tested for STIs?
- Are we going to use condoms? Do we have any?
- Are you on PrEP?
- If you’re living with HIV, do you know your viral load?
Talking about what you expect or want from sex can sometimes feel awkward, or can sometimes be a turn on. If it ever starts feeling weird, you’re allowed to walk it back and suggest talking about it later. In any case, talking with one another can help you figure out what you both want and how to go about getting it.
The only way to know for sure if you are HIV-negative or HIV-positive is by taking an HIV test. It’s a simple and easy blood test.
You can get an HIV test at a doctor’s office, a clinic, or sometimes at local community health centres. In certain places, you can get an anonymous HIV test, meaning your name will never be attached to the results.
There are also rapid HIV tests which are fast and don’t hurt much or at all. Typically, they’re just a pinprick in your finger, and only take a few minutes to get your results.
Some tests can find results within a few weeks of HIV being in a body. Others take longer. Ask the person giving you the test whether it will detect any of the incidents you might be worried about.
If you’re having sex, it’s good to get tested for HIV and other STIs regularly. Untreated STIs increase HIV risk.
Here are some guidelines that can help you figure out how often.
If you have not had sex, get tested when you become sexually active.
If you’re having sex with just one person, or only having oral sex, you should get tested every 6-12 months.
If you’re having anal or frontal sex with a few people or more, having anal sex without condoms (barebacking), or are having sex with guys and you don’t know their HIV status, get tested every 3 months.
Maybe you’re nervous about getting tested — but it’s always good to know your status to make sure you’re doing everything you can to take care of your health. 👍
You can ask your best friend to go with you for the first time, or even a peer community worker to go with you or chat with you before and/or after getting tested – whatever helps get you there!
The sooner you know your HIV status, the sooner you can start treatment and be undetectable earlier. The person doing the testing is trained to tell you everything you’ll need to know, answer any questions you might have, and help you think about the results and your health.
There is no cure for HIV, but lots of people living with HIV are doing well, and living full, healthy, sexual and emotional lives. Treatment has come a long way!
It’s really important that guys who test positive get connected to a doctor right away so they can talk about the care and medication that’s going to work for them.
People who have HIV often learn a lot about taking care of their bodies. Poz guys have unique health needs and should keep a routine of visiting their doctor to look after their general health. Getting connected to other supports, like AIDS Service Organizations (ASOs), is also really great!
Sticking to medication is the best way to keep a viral load down and be undetectable.
Adhering to taking medication every day can be challenging, but talk to your doctor about ways to manage and improve this. Guys getting the care they need for HIV is good for them, and also good for the guys they’re having sex with.
HIV treatment is first and foremost about taking care of your health, and it will extend your life span. The sooner you start on HIV medication, the better.