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HIV & sex

Selina Corkery

This booklet is an introduction to sexual health for people living with HIV. Part 1 looks at sexual health from a broad perspective and explains why having HIV needn’t stop you having and enjoying sex. The booklet describes the ways that having HIV can affect how you feel about sex, and suggests ways to tackle problems or anxieties you may experience.

Part 2 explains why good physical sexual health is important for people living with HIV, and outlines the steps you can take to protect your own health and that of other people. There’s also information on the impact of HIV treatment on your risk of passing on HIV. Part 3 provides information on symptoms, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of some common sexually transmitted infections.

This booklet is not intended to replace discussion with your doctor or your healthcare team – but it might help you decide what questions you would like answered. You might also want to discuss some of the issues covered here with partners, friends and support agencies.

Thanks to the people living with HIV and members of our medical review panel for their assistance in reviewing this booklet. In particular: Sarah Ellis, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Grahame Hayton Unit, Barts Health NHS Trust; Angelina Namiba; Dr Daniel Richardson FRCP, Consultant & Hon Clinical Senior Lecturer in Sexual Health & HIV Medicine, Brighton & Sussex Universities NHS Trust.

  • Part I: HIV, sex and you

    Paying attention to sexual health is more than taking steps to prevent passing on HIV to someone else, or avoiding sexually transmitted infections. Good sexual health is...

  • How might you feel about sex after an HIV diagnosis?

    Although it’s not certain to happen, many people find that their feelings about sex change after they find out they have HIV. It could be that your...

  • HIV, sex and the law

    If you know you are HIV positive, and you have sex without a condom without telling your sexual partner about your HIV status, and your partner...

  • Dealing with sexual problems

    The way you feel about sex, and your ability to have sex, are affected by a number of factors. These include psychological issues, such as how you...

  • Relationships with an HIV-negative partner

    Often, people living with HIV have partners who are HIV negative (these are sometimes referred to by healthcare professionals as ‘serodiscordant’ or ‘serodifferent’ relationships). It can feel...

  • Part II: HIV and preventing sexual transmission

    Part 2 explains why good physical sexual health is important for people living with HIV, and outlines the steps you can take to protect your own health...

  • Using anti-HIV drugs to prevent HIV

    The goal of HIV treatment is an undetectable viral load. An undetectable viral load means that your blood has a level of HIV below the level which...

  • Condoms

    Male and female condoms provide excellent protection against HIV and most other sexually transmitted infections. To be effective, they need to be used correctly. Where possible, choose a...

  • Anal sex

    Having anal sex without a condom is one of the highest-risk activities in terms of transmission of HIV (and other sexually transmitted infections). Being on HIV treatment...

  • Vaginal sex

    Vaginal sex without condoms is a high-risk route for passing on HIV for both men and women. The risk is greater for an HIV-negative woman having sex...

  • Oral sex

    The risk of HIV transmission by oral sex is much less clear. It is widely accepted that the risk of passing on HIV from oral sex...

  • Other sexual activities

    There are plenty of sexual activities that are completely safe. Kissing and caressing present no risk of passing on HIV, for example. A partner masturbating you carries...

  • Contraception, conception and pregnancy

    Becoming a parent of a healthy, HIV-negative child is now a very realistic option for many people with HIV. However, you may want to plan when pregnancy...

  • Part III: HIV and other sexually transmitted infections

    Remaining free of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is important for everyone’s health, but it is especially important if you are living with HIV. This is because STIs...

  • Sexual health check-ups

    If you are sexually active, it is important to have regular sexual health check-ups. In the UK, it is recommended that men who have sex with men,...

  • Sexually transmitted infections

    This section contains a brief explanation of how common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are passed on, their symptoms and their treatment. STIs can be caused by bacteria, viruses...

  • Summary

    Sexual health is about more than freedom from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Good sexual health also involves being happy about your sexuality, your choices and opportunities, and the...

HIV & sex

Published January 2016

Last reviewed January 2016

Next review January 2019

Contact NAM to find out more about the scientific research and information used to produce this booklet.

NAM is grateful to the Department of Health and Wandsworth Oasis for funding towards the production of this booklet.

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.