Whether you consider yourself a top or a bottom (or versatile), single or in a relationship, it’s important to understand how to minimize your risk for getting or passing on HIV or STIs. While condoms continue to be the primary way of reducing risks for most gay and bisexual men, there are a variety of other tools and strategies that you should be aware of to help protect you and your partners.
Tools for Reducing Your HIV & STI Risk:
The best way to reduce the risk of picking up or passing on HIV is to use condoms when having anal sex, especially with guys whose HIV status you don’t know or are unsure of, or with guys whose status is not the same as yours. When using condoms, it is a good idea to use lube. Take your time; don’t rush it! Rushed or aggressive anal sex can increase the likelihood of tears and other problems.
In Vancouver, you can find free condom dispensers at the following gay venues:
> Fountainhead Pub
> Pumpjack Pub
> 1181 Tight Lounge
> Junction Pub
> Numbers Cabaret
> Steamworks Gym & Spa
> 8×6 Social Playspace
> Heaven’s Door
You can also drop by a HIM Health Centre – HIM’s Davie Health Centre, HIM on the Drive, HIM in New West, or HIM in Surrey to pick up free condoms and lube. HIM also has non-latex and large size condoms available at our Health Centres.
HIV + STI Testing
Knowing your HIV status and getting tested for STIs will allow you and your sex partners to make informed decisions about how to best reduce sexual risk-taking. For more information on available HIV tests and how often you should get tested:
Some men prefer to have anal sex without condoms. If you and your partner are both HIV negative and want to stop using condoms, it is possible to do this safely. You both need to get tested for HIV. Even if your test results are negative, some guys keep using condoms until they have a second test (after 3 months) to confirm their HIV status.
Other Harm Reduction Tools
(may be less risky, but not risk-free)
> Having less risky sex (hand jobs, oral sex, etc.).
> Limiting the number of partners (i.e. friends-with-benefits).
> Looking for partners with the same HIV status.
> Putting the negative guy on top, not ejaculating inside each other
(pulling out or withdrawal).
Treatment as Prevention
For HIV-positive individuals, proper treatment adherence (taking medication consistently) will result in a suppressed HIV viral load, which significantly lowers the risk of passing on HIV. Research has demonstrated that the risk of HIV transmission, where one partner is positive the other is negative, is very low if the HIV positive partner is on treatment, has an undetectable viral load, and is free of STIs.