Safer Sex Practices

SAFE SEX & AIDS:  AIDS is caused by the HIV virus. HIV can be spread by four body fluids: blood, semen, vaginal fluid and breast milk. You cannot get infected unless the virus in one of these fluids reaches your bloodstream. Saliva alone cannot spread HIV.

Safe sex, as it applies to HIV, is any type of sex which does not let one person's blood, semen, vaginal fluid, or breast milk get inside another person's body.  Below is a useful set of guidelines produced by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. These guidelines are useful in preventing transmission of other STDs as well.

  • Wet Kissing: is safe unless either of you has a cut or sore in your mouth, or bleeding gums. (After you brush or floss your teeth, wait at least 1/2 hour before kissing.) Blood, not saliva, contains the virus.

  • Touching your lover's breasts is safe. You can lick, suck, kiss and bite them too-as long as there's no blood or breast milk. Massage, dry kissing, masturbation (touching yourself), and body-to-body rubbing are all safe.

  • Putting your fingers inside her can be risky. To be safe, wear latex gloves. If you use a lubricant, be sure it is water-based. (Oil-based lubricants like Vaseline and hand lotion will damage the latex.)

  • Sores or cuts on your fingers, mouth or vagina, or on her's, increase the risk. Sores and cuts can provide a way for the virus to get inside you. If you touch her vagina and then touch your own (or vice-versa), you could spread the virus. Be sure to use gloves in between!

  • Contact with menstrual blood is very risky. If she is infected, her menstrual blood (like other blood) will have a lot of virus in it.

  • Oral sex on a woman is risky, especially when she has her period. To make it safe, cover her vulva (genital area) with a piece of plastic wrap. This will keep her fluids out of your mouth. Latex dams-also called "dental dams" - are safe to use for oral sex too.

  • Sex toys are safe by themselves, but it is risky to share them. If you share dildos or vibrators, cover them with a condom and put on a fresh one every time it is used by a different person.

  • Getting pregnant can be risky. If you have sex with a man or have a man donate sperm to you, make sure he tests HIV negative at least 6 months after his last possible risk. (All licensed sperm banks test their donors carefully.)

  • SM activities are safe if there is no blood involved. If you are piercing each other, clean the needle with bleach between users. Use different razors if you shave each other. Don't let urine or feces of another person get inside your body.

For more specific transmission and prevention information for other STDs, please see their individual listings in the STD Information section , our Bibliography section, or ask us a question from our STD Q&A pages.