No Risk Behaviors
- Abstaining from any type of sexual intercourse. This includes
- Sexual intercourse in a mutually monogamous relationship
with an uninfected person (HIV negative), where it is certain
that both partners are uninfected and monogamous.
- Not drinking or using drugs.
- Sexual behaviors that do not involve contact with blood,
semen or vaginal secretions.
- Casual contact, such as kissing on the skin, touching, or
eating with a person who is infected with HIV or has AIDS.
- Donating blood.
Low Risk Behaviors
- Using a latex condom, with spermicide, during any type of
intercourse, each and every time. Use a non-lubricated condom
or dental dam for oral sex. During oral sex, don't let semen
enter your mouth. Oral sex with an infected woman is most risky
during her period. Only use water-based lubricants; oil-based
lubricants will cause a condom to break. Remember, even when
used correctly, condoms are not 100% safe.
High Risk Behaviors
- Unprotected intercourse of any kind with a partner whose
serostatus (HIV status) is positive or unknown.
- Drug use that inhibits judgment about sex, like crack or
- Sharing needles for drugs or other reasons.
You Cannot Get HIV From:
- Giving blood
- Shaking hands or hugging an infected person
- Coughs or sneezes
- Touching toilet seats, telephones, or clothes
- Sharing food or utensils
- Sweat or tears
- Dry kissing
If you are uninfected, you can stay that way.
It is up to you to protect yourself!
Women and HIV/AIDS
Women are at risk for HIV (Human lmmunodeficiency Virus),
the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
HIV is passed by having vaginal, anal or oral sex without
protection, with someone who has HIV. Women, in fact, are at
greater risk for HIV during vaginal sex than men. Women can also
get HIV by sharing needles or syringes with someone who has HIV.
You can't tell if someone has HIV just by looking at them.
Information here will help you make choices about how to protect
yourself and your sex partner from HIV and other sexually transmitted
This information is for all women, whether you have HIV, do
not have HIV or don't know for sure, whether you are heterosexual,
bisexual, or lesbian. Even though it's written for women, this
brochure is helpful for men too.
Sex is SAFEST if you know for sure that all of these statements
are true for you:
- My partner and I were tested for HIV and we are both negative.*
- We only have sex with each other.
- We do not share needles or syringes with anyone.
If you don't know these things for sure and you do have sex,
then you should learn about the things you can do to protect
yourself and your partner from HIV.
*(Ideally, you should have two negative tests at least three
months apart, without having unprotected sex or sharing needles
or syringes in between.)
You can choose not to have sex. Or, you and your partner can
avoid HIV and most STDs by kissing, touching, rubbing or massaging
instead of having sex. These choices also prevent pregnancy.
If you have sex - vaginal, anal or oral - this page lists
your choices for protection.
Make the safest choice that you can. Since no choice is 100%
safe, GET TESTED for HIV and STDs. It's the only way to know
for sure if you are infected.
It's easier if you choose protection BEFORE things start to
No matter what you choose, use protection the right way, every
time you have sex!
For Women Who Have Sex With Men
Hopefully, you and your partner will decide together which
choice is best for both of you. But women can choose to protect
themselves even if a man won't use a condom.
These choices don't all have the same amount of protection
against HIV and STDs. WHENEVER YOU CAN, CHOOSE CONDOMS.
1st Choice: CONDOMS.
It's your best choice!
Male and female condoms offer the most protection against
HIV and STDs. But condoms only protect against HIV and STDs if
you use them the right way, every time you have sex. Condoms
can be used with spermicide (a chemical that kills sperm and
some STDs and may kill HIV), called nonoxynol-9 or N-9.
The Latex Male Condom:
This is the best choice to protect against
HIV and STDs. Some condoms have N-9 on them. You can also put
some N-9 in your vagina when your partner uses a condom. This
way, N-9 may kill HIV if the condom slips off or breaks. (Please
see A Word About Spermicides for important information about
Never use oil-based lubricants like petroleum jelly, lotion
or butter, with latex condoms. These make the latex tear or break.
Some male condoms are made out of lambskin instead of latex.
These do not protect against HIV or STDs.
The rest of the choices are all methods made for women. Your
partner may or may not know you're using these methods. The good
thing about these methods is that you can make sure they are
used if he won't use a male condom.
The Female Condom:
This is a type of condom that you insert
to cover the walls of your vagina and cervix (the opening to
the uterus or womb). Putting extra N-9 in your vagina when you
use the female condom may add more protection. We don't know
yet if the female condom works as wel1 as the male condom, but
it's the best choice if your partner won't use a male condom.
If a condom is not an option, here are your next best choices:
2nd Choice: A DIAPHRAGM.
Much riskier than condoms, but it may help.
The diaphragm is inserted into the vagina to cover the cervix.
It is used with a spermicidal cream or jelly. It doesn't protect
the walls of the vagina like condoms do. So it doesn't protect
against STDs as well as condoms. We're not sure if it offers
much protection against HIV.
3rd Choice: VAGINAL SPERMICIDE ALONE.
Very risky, but may be better than nothing!
Vaginal spermicide (N-9) kills sperm and some STDs. It also
kills HIV in test tubes, but we don't know yet if it protects
against HIV during sex. So, it's very risky to use N-9 alone.
You can buy N-9 as a foam, gel, cream, film or suppository.
N-9 only takes a minute to put in the vagina. Some types start
to work right away. With others you have to wait a while before
having sex. Be sure to read the directions to learn how to use
the type you buy.
Worst Choice: NOTHING.
Don't do it!
This is a dangerous choice! You're at risk for getting HIV,
a serious disease with no cure. You're also at risk for getting
an STD or having an unplanned pregnancy. You're worth too much
to even think about this choice.
What About Anal Sex?
This is the riskiest sex for HIV infection.
Because it's so risky, it's best if you don't have anal sex.
If you do have anal sex, use a condom and plenty of extra water-based
lubricant. Water-based lubricant protects the condom from breaking,
which happens more during anal sex. Use a water-based lubricant,
not one with N-9, since we don't know yet if N-9 is safe for
What About Oral Sex?
Even though the risk of HIV is lower with
oral sex, there is still some risk. Using a male condom that
doesn't have any lubricant is the best choice for oral sex on
a man. If your partner won't use a condom, don't let him come
in your mouth.
A dental dam should be used for oral sex on a woman. The dental
dam is a latex square that covers the pelvic area. If you don't
have a dental dam, you can use a condom cut down the side and
opened up or you can even use plastic food wrap (the non-microwavable
What About Pregnancy?
The male condom does protect against
pregnancy better than the diaphragm, female condom and spermicides.
But the best methods to prevent pregnancy are birth control pills,
hormone implants and having your tubes tied. Since the birth
control methods that best prevent pregnancy do not offer any
protection against HIV and STDs, you should always use a condom
A Word About Spermicides...
Most of the choices talk about
the spermicide nonoxydol-9. We know that N-9 kills HIV in test
tubes. But it also can irritate the vagina, which may make it
easier for you to get HIV.
The more times you use N-9, the more it can irritate the vagina.
So, it isn't a good idea to use N-9 for vaginal sex more than
every other day, even if you don't feel any irritation. If you
use N-9 and feel burning or irritation, or your parter feels
penile burning or irritation, stop using it and use condoms alone.
Symptoms of a latex allergy might be a rash
or irritation. See your doctor if you think you are allergic.
If you or your partner are allergic to latex, you can use
a condom made of polyurethane, another type of rubber. The female
condom and some male condoms are made out of polyurethane.
For Women Who Have Sex With Women
Though the statistics are woefully inadequate, there are growing
numbers of documented cases of woman-to-woman HIV transmission.
Because the overwhelming majority of HIV infections in women
have been traced to sexual encounters with men, there is a false
belief that HIV/AIDS is not really a concern for women who only
have sex with women.The truth is that while in the past statistics
on this population were not properly kept, this is changing and
the reality of woman-to-woman HIV transmission is coming to light.
Whether you have sex with only women, sex with both women
and men, or sex with only men, you must protect yourself and
practice safer sex.
- Use finger cots or latex gloves for vaginal or anal insertion.
cots are like mini-condoms for fingers, and can usually be found
in the first aid section of drug stores. Use these or latex gloves
before vaginal or anal insertion. Also, keep the nails on the
inserting fingers short so as not to break the finger cot(s)
or glove and possibly scratch vaginal or anal walls.
- Use dental
dams when having oral sex.
- As dental dams are not very easy to
find, you can make them yourself out of male condoms. An alternative
is to use non-microwavable plastic food wrap, which is very easy
- Do not share sex toys.
- Sex toys, such as dildos and vibrators,
should be covered with a male condom. If you are going to share
a sex toy, make sure you and your partner each use a new condom
(don't share one condom). Also disinfect the sex toy with warm
water and soap after each use.
Return to HIV/AIDS menu