There are a range of strategies that people can use to reduce or eliminate the risk of HIV transmission. These strategies and practices include:
- Condoms and water-based lube
- Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)
- Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)
- Treatment as prevention – the use of antiretroviral by people with HIV dramatically reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to sexual partners.
- Low/No risk sexual practices
- Oral sex & HIV transmission
- Mother-to-child transmission
- Strategic positioning
- Pulling out
- Relationship agreements
- Safe Drug Use
Traditionally, ‘safe’ or ‘protected sex’ has been equated with the use of condoms. Condoms continue to be the cheapest, most readily accessible, safe and practical way to prevent sexual transmission of HIV and some other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The adoption of condoms by gay men and sex workers in response to HIV has been effective in minimising the transmission of HIV.
The Centre for Disease Control in the USA has changed the definition of the term ‘protected sex’ to refer to more than sex with condoms. For example, people with HIV who take treatments and have an undetectable viral load are effectively utilising a form of protection (‘treatment as prevention’), as are people who are HIV-negative taking antiretroviral drugs as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
AFAO believes that the meaning of ‘protected sex’ evolving to include treatment as prevention and PrEP. While it may take some time for common usage to change, it is no longer accurate to equate condomless sex with unprotected sex if PrEP or treatment as prevention are used. These technologies offer effective protection from HIV.
There is also more information about HIV prevention for gay men and other men who have sex with men in the Taking a Look website.