In what ways are you putting yourself at risk of catching HIV?

Sexual activities that involve contact with body fluids (semen, pre-cum vaginal fluid, or blood) put you at risk of catching HIV and other STIs. HIV is mainly spread by having anal or vaginal sex without a condom.

Anal Sex: Anal sex is the riskiest sexual behaviour for getting and transmitting HIV for men and women. The virus is carried in semen, pre-cum and blood which can affect either partner who is giving or receiving anal sex. The lining of the rectum is thin and small cuts, scratches or open sores on the penis or around the rectum may allow HIV to enter the body this way during anal sex.

Vaginal Sex: Men with a detectable viral load carry the HIV virus in their semen. If during unprotected sex this semen gets into the body of a sexual partner, then HIV can be passed on into the other person’s bloodstream. For women who have HIV, one of the bodily fluids where the virus is found is in vaginal secretions. HIV can be transmitted to a male if these vaginal secretions come into contact with his penis. The foreskin or delicate skin around the penis is where the virus can enter.

Oral Sex: Transmission would be a risk if an HIV-positive man ejaculates in his partner’s mouth during oral sex. However the risk of transmitting HIV through oral sex is much lower than anal or vaginal sex. Use condoms and/or dental dams during oral sex to protect you from HIV and other STIs.

If you are having unprotected sex then you should be testing regular for HIV and other more commonly known STIs such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea and Syphilis. Putting yourself at risk can seriously damage your long term health. Find your nearest clinic and visit our drop in services or make an appointment to be tested.

In the UK, more than 9 in 10 newly diagnosed people have acquired HIV through sexual transmission.  Anyone can acquire HIV. You don’t need to have lots of sexual partners to put yourself at risk. However, frequent unprotected sex will increase your chances of getting HIV and other STIs.

Apps: Technology is making it easier to meet people and therefore easier to make casual arrangements with someone you don’t know much about. If you regularly have casual and unprotected sex with people met on apps, ensure you are frequently tested for HIV and other STIs. Taking condoms with you next time would reduce your risk!

Holidays: Unprotected sex with people from outside of the UK puts you at risk of HIV. This is due to some countries not having the same standard of healthcare, education or resources as the UK. Ensure you book an appointment for a full sexual health check after sexual contact overseas.

Bars/clubs: It’s not unusual to meet people on a night out whilst drinking alcohol. However alcohol can often lead to sexual situations that don’t involve condoms or aren’t exactly as you planned. When meeting someone new you don’t immediately know their sexual health history and can’t tell if they have HIV just by looking at them. You could be exposed to STIs and HIV without even knowing it.

Sex workers: If you pay for sex or are paid for sex which doesn’t include the use a condom, then you are at risk of HIV and other STIs. Please test regular to protect your sexual health.

Injecting ANY substance using a shared needle or syringe puts you at risk of HIV and other blood-borne viruses such as hepatitis C.

When someone injects themselves, tiny traces of blood go back into the needle and syringe. This makes it possible for the HIV virus to be passed between users sharing needles. Therefore if a person uses the same drug injecting equipment as a person with detectable HIV, then they are at risk of putting HIV infected blood directly into their bloodstream.

It doesn’t matter which drug is in the syringe when it comes to sharing injecting equipment. Whether a person is injecting heroin, tranquillisers, amphetamine or even steroids, all carry the same HIV transmission risk. Visit Drug Wise for more information.

Using shared needles: When using an infected needle, HIV can get into the bloodstream through injecting into a vein, injecting into the fat under the skin and injecting directly into muscle. Sterilising equipment and using new needles can help reduce the risk of HIV amongst drug users.

Details on drug use support services by Spectrum can be found here.