HIV certainly complicates sex, but if you take the right precautions, there’s no reason why HIV-positive women can’t enjoy a healthy sex life without passing on the virus.
The first things you need to consider are “issues of disclosure – how to protect your partner and assess their HIV status, plus what to do if things go wrong,” says Dr Francois Venter. These need to be tackled before you find yourself in the moment so you can approach them with careful thought. “Plan how to have the conversation, negotiate safe sex and encourage your partner to get tested, and have a handy plan B in place in case there’s a condom break, such as taking post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), which prevents HIV transmission,” says Venter.
What you need to know
When it comes to swapping bodily fluids, the virus can only be transmitted though: blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum), rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. These fluids need to come into contact with mucous membranes, which are found inside the mouth, penis, vagina, and rectum in order for you to become infected.
And when it comes to sex, you’re most likely to contract HIV through anal sex. This is mainly because of because of trauma, mucosal breakdown, and bleeding that can occur in the rectum. It can also be passed through vaginal sex, and while the risk is relatively low, the virus can also be passed on through oral sex.
So, you want to get down? Here’s how to stay safe:
Have sex with only one partner who is also committed to having sex with only you.
There are a lot of myths around condoms not being safe enough to protect against HIV transmission, but if used correctly, and if they don’t burst or come off, they’re 100 percent safe. Unfortunately, they occasionally slip or tear, in which case a small risk is present and it’s advised to get PEP from your doctor or clinic.
Same goes for oral sex
Venter says: “You’ve got a bigger risk of getting struck by lightning than getting HIV from oral sex.” However, you can still catch other STIs from unprotected oral sex, so proceed with caution and make sure you use a condom (yes, even for oral!).
Avoid high-risk activities
Fisting and dry sex can cause trauma and increases the transmission rate.
Lastly, there is no evidence that HIV can be spread through the following: kissing and swapping saliva (unless both of you have bleeding gums or open wounds); sharing food utensils, towels or bedding; swimming in pools; using toilet seats; using telephones; or having mosquito or other insect bites. Casual contact in the home, workplace or public spaces poses no risk of HIV transmission.