According to Statistics SA, roughly 12.6% of the South African population is HIV positive. That’s around one in 8 people, which means if you’re dating or in a non-monogamous relationship, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll come into contact with HIV positive partners.
Of course, there’s the chance that you’re the HIV positive person in the relationship. These facts don’t have to be scary or mean that you can’t have sex. It just means you need to have a good understanding of the illness and know how to protect yourself and/or your sexual partners from contracting the disease.
Are you sexually active? Here are 4 things you must know about HIV/Aids
There are a few vital things every sexually active person needs to know about HIV. This information will help you protect your partner, or stay HIV negative:
- Anyone can contract HIV – no one is immune to the disease, and no group is more at risk than another
- It’s possible to have sex with an HIV positive person and not contract HIV if you use protection – more on that below
- HIV positive people can have fulfilling, satisfying sex lives without jeopardising the health of their partners, but they need to be considerate and consistent in their use of protection
- You need to know your status at all times so you can protect others and yourself
5 ways to protect your partner from HIV infection
1. Use protection every time you have sex – no exceptions
Anytime you have penetrative sex, there is a risk of contracting or spreading HIV/Aids. Whether you’re engaging in gay or straight penetrative sex, vaginal or anal sex, there is a great risk of spreading the disease, so use a condom every time. If the condom breaks, get to your doctor or clinic as soon as possible to safeguard yourself or your partner against possible infection.
2. Choose less risky sex practices
Remember, there’s lots more to sex than just penetration, and there are lots of types of sex that are less risky than others. Lower risk activities include masturbating, mutual masturbation, dry humping, kissing, oral sex using condoms and/or dental dams, and using sex toys that have been thoroughly cleaned.
3. Avoid high-risk sex practices
The types of sex that carry a very high risk of HIV transmission including vaginal sex without a condom and anal sex without a condom. Avoid, avoid, avoid! Not only do you face the risk of contracting or spreading HIV, but there are tons of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that can be spread this way, and which have horrible, sometimes lifelong side effects. There’s also a high risk of unwanted pregnancy.
4. Ask your doctor about PrEP
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) has been approved for use among HIV negative individuals in South Africa who are at high risk for HIV (such as sex workers). It’s a type of antiretroviral drug that provides additional protection for those who may face greater risk than others. It only needs to be taken while you’re facing the elevated risk, and not for the rest of your life. Anyone is free to ask their doctor whether PrEP is right for them, so if you think it may be for you, speak to your doctor or healthcare practitioner.
5. Keep yourself healthy
It’s easier for HIV to be contracted by people with weaker immune systems, so the healthier you are, the better. Get yourself tested for STIs, and if you’re positive for any infections, make sure you get proper treatment ASAP (or learn how to manage it if it’s a lifelong disease).
Get tested at Marie Stopes and take control of your sexual health
Knowing your status is your first line of defence in the fight against HIV infection and transmission. Then, it’s up to you to insist on condom use every time you have sex. You have a responsibility to protect your partner from HIV and to keep yourself safe and healthy too. You, just like everyone else, is at equal risk for HIV, so take no chances. Use a condom every time you have sex, or better yet, abstain until you’re both tested.