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Sexual activities and the risks


 

Sex is great and there are many different things you can do to have an active and fulfilling sex life. However, a number of these do carry some risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection. In nearly every case, condoms will help protect you against this risk. For more information on the types of sexual activity and the risks associated with them see below

Vaginal penetrative sex

This is where the penis enters the vagina. All penetrative sex is risky without a condom and many sexually transmitted infections (STI) can be transmitted by unprotected penetrative vaginal sex.

If a man with HIV has vaginal intercourse without a condom, infected fluid can pass into the woman's blood stream through a tiny cut or sore inside her vagina. If a woman with HIV has sexual intercourse without a condom, the virus could get into the man's blood through the penis. Any contact with blood during sex increases the risk of infection.

Unprotected vaginal sex can also put you at risk of infections such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia, genital herpes, genital warts, hepatitis B and C, non-specific urethritis, syphilis and trichomonas vaginalis. Using a condom can help to protect against all these.

Any kind of vaginal sex, unprotected or otherwise, may set off bacterial vaginosis and thrush.

Anal penetrative sex

This is when the penis enters the anus. Although many people think it's something only gay men do, the statistics actually show that about the same number of heterosexual people have anal sex as gay people.

Due to that fact that the lining of the anus is thin and can easily be damaged, anal sex has a higher risk of spreading sexually transmitted infections (STI) than many other types of sexual activity. In particular, it carries a bigger than average risk of HIV transmission as well as genital warts, hepatitis A and hepatitis C.

Using condoms and water-based lubricants, such as KY Jelly, will help protect you against STI during anal sex. However, other lubricants, especially oil-based ones, may cause condoms to split, as can over-energetic thrusting. Specially toughened condoms designed for anal intercourse are available and may offer more protection.

Oral Sex

Oral sex is sucking or licking the penis, the vagina or the anus. It's practised by men and women of all ages, both gay and straight. Both giving and receiving oral sex can lead to the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STI).

STI that may be passed on through oral sex are herpes type 1 virus, usually causing cold sores around the mouth and type 2 virus usually causing genital herpes sores. You may also be at risk from gonorrhoea and chlamydia, which can infect the throat of someone giving oral sex and you can get syphilis on the tongue and lips.

The hepatitis A virus is also contained in poo and may be passed on during oral sex around the anus (rimming). Hepatitis B is contained in sexual fluids and blood and may be transmitted during oral sex in a similar way to HIV. Hepatitis C is generally only contained in blood and so may only be transmitted if there is blood present during oral sex.

HIV (and hepatitis B, which is more infectious) can pose a small risk for both the active (person giving oral sex) and receptive (person receiving oral sex) partner. Both can occur when the active partner gets sexual fluid (semen or vaginal fluid) or blood (from menstruation or a wound somewhere in the genital or anal region) into a cut, sore, or ulcer somewhere in their mouth or throat. The linings of the mouth and throat are resistant to viral infections such as HIV, so infection is unlikely if they are healthy.

Transmission from an HIV positive active partner to an HIV negative receptive partner is less common. This is because HIV it is normally only present in saliva in very low levels. There is a bigger risk of transmission from bleeding wounds or gums in the HIV positive person's mouth or on their lips, which may transfer blood onto the other person's genitals or anus, or into any cuts or sores they may have. Hepatitis C can also be transmitted this way.

Condoms can dramatically reduce the risk of STI transmission during oral sex and a barrier, such as a dental dam, can also give protection. Lots of different flavoured condoms are available, which can make oral sex even more fun.

Rimming

Rimming involves oral contact around the anus. To reduce the chance of infection, good anal hygiene before sex and good oral hygiene after sex is vital. Although poo doesn't normally contain HIV, it does contain a large range of other organisms.

Using a barrier like a dental dam to prevent poo from getting into your mouth can protect you from a range of intestinal parasites and hepatitis A.

Fisting

This involves the insertion of the whole hand (beginning with the fingers) and occasionally the forearm, into the vagina or anus. It's vital to use lots of lubricant and ensure that the receptive partner is very relaxed. Care must be taken by the inserting partner to reduce any risk of internal injury.

Getting or passing on an STI isn't as likely with fisting as it is with other forms of sexual activity, but if there are any cuts or broken skin on the hand or arm of the person doing the fisting, the risks do increase. Hepatitis B and C can be passed on by blood contact, as can HIV. Surgical gloves, available from health centres, can provide protection.

Fingering

It's not common for fingering to spread sexually transmitted infections (STI) but there are still risks. Should there be any cuts or sores on the fingers, no matter how small, the risk of passing or catching HIV or other blood-borne infections like hepatitis B or C increases. Wearing surgical gloves removes this risk, but other precautions include simply making sure the fingers are washed and clean beforehand.

Dipping

This is where the penis is just dipped in the vagina or anus. It's not classed as full penetration but the chance of passing on or contracting an STI is still there. HIV can be transmitted through pre-ejaculate (precum) and even shallow insertion of the penis carries risks if there are any injuries, however small, in the anus or vagina. Hepatitis B and C can be transmitted this way and there's also a risk of chlamydia, genital herpes and syphilis. Using a condom can help to protect against all these.

Sex toys

This covers a wide range of items from vibrators to dildos to sex dolls. In fact, any object used in sex can be called a sex toy, whether it's designed for this use or not. The most important thing when using sex toys is to make sure they're clean beforehand. For added protection, condoms can be put over them. Condoms should be changed between insertions.

The risks with sharing sex toys include bacterial infections and hepatitis A. In additional to that, things not designed to be used as sex toys can get broken or lost inside people, They can also cause damage to the anus or vagina, and when there's blood, the risks of passing on hepatitis B and C and HIV increase.

Wee and poo play

Weeing on a sex partner is often called a golden shower or water sports. If the person being wee'd on has no unbroken skin it carries a relatively low risk of passing on any infection.

Poo play, or scat, is more of a risk. Poo contains organisms, which can cause illness or infection. Although poo doesn't usually contain HIV, it can contain the hepatitis A virus. There's a chance of infection when poo comes into contact with broken skin and also if it comes into contact with the mouth or eyes.

Cutting

Also called scarification, cutting the skin as part of sex play does carry risks. Infections, including HIV, hepatitis B and C can pass from person to person through broken skin. No sexual contact is needed - simply getting blood on a partner can be enough to transmit these infections and more.

To reduce the chances of infection, cutting and piercing equipment should be sterilised and not shared.

 


Article originally published by Condom Essential Wear