Safer Oral Sex: Info for Gay Men
Gay, bi, and queer men have faced HIV and its stigma with community responses that are innovative, based on evidence and affirm our sex lives. While HIV is still a major concern, it's important to know that sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have resurged since the mid 1990s1 and we are now seeing:
- high levels of syphilis,2
- small outbreaks of lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) internationally,3
- a recent increase in gonorrhea cases,4
- our own share of herpes and chlamydia, which are the most frequently diagnosed STIs in the general population of most Canadian cities.5
Just like sharing a public space can be a risk for getting the flu, having sex comes with the risk of getting STIs . So how do we reduce risk?
The first thing to know is that the strategies that we developed to stop HIV are not necessarily the same strategies for preventing STIs. Although low risk for HIV,6 oral sex can easily spread STIs – and many believe oral sex is a significant factor in the spread of syphilis. We need to ask ourselves what level of risk are we comfortable with when it comes to STIs, and consider risk reduction strategies that can still keep sex hot.
Consider these options for reducing the risk of STI transmission:
- check yourself and your partners’ dick (penis), balls, frontal hole or ass for any sores, discharges or unusual smells before putting them in your mouth
- if you notice a sore, discharge or unusual smell, consider using a flavoured or dry condom or a dental dam for oral sex
- avoid rimming or sucking if you have active cold sores on your mouth, if they have recently disappeared, or you think they are about to appear
- use water to thoroughly wash around and just inside the ass before rimming
- consider getting vaccinated for Hepatitis A & B
- get tested regularly for STIs, and be honest with the testing doctor about the types of sex you have so they can do the right tests and examine the right areas of your body
- if you’re getting treated for an STI, avoid the types of sex that could transmit the STI until the treatment is complete. Instead, try jerking off together (mutual masturbation), exchanging hand jobs, trying sex toys (without sharing them or else covering them with a new condom for each partner), or using condoms.
If either you or your partner has HIV, having an STI can be harder to treat, the symptoms can be worse and progress faster, and it can increase HIV viral load. Having an STI can increase the likelihood of transmitting HIV, just as it can increase risk for getting HIV (for someone who is HIV negative).
Check out ACT's Safer Blow Jobs and Safer Rimming info pages.
You can also download our Safer Blow Jobs and Safer Rimming brochures, or pick them at bars, bathhouses, and other community venues.
1 Public Health Agency of Canada. (Jan 2008) Canadian Guidelines of Sexually Transmitted Infections. p1. Chpt VI.
2 Public Health Agency of Canada. (Jan 2008) Canadian Guidelines of Sexually Transmitted Infections. p1. Chpt VI.
3 Public Health Agency of Canada. (Jan 2008) Canadian Guidelines of Sexually Transmitted Infections. p1. Chpt VI.
4 Toronto Public Health (n.d.) Sexually Transmitted and Bloodborne Infections Communicable Diseases in Toronto 2013. p3.
5 Toronto Public Health (n.d.) Sexually Transmitted and Bloodborne Infections Communicable Diseases in Toronto 2013. p3.
6 Canadian AIDS Society. HIV Transmission Guidelines for Assessing Risk. (2004.) p.41.