I want to have sex with this guy I’m seeing but I’m terrified of catching an STI. Also is oral sex without a condom safe?
Having sex with anyone can be a nerve-wrecking experience, especially when issues of STIs come up. The best advice we can offer is to make sure both you and your partner are tested regularly. Depending on the area of the UK that you live in it’s usually possible to order free testing kits online.
In terms of HIV, there are several things you can do to protect yourself. If you’re worried that you’ve been exposed to HIV, you have a 72-hour window period in which you can go to any A&E or sexual health clinic and ask to be put on PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis). This is a month-long course of HIV medication that is very effective at stopping the virus from taking hold in your body.
If you’re frequently engaging in unprotected sex, particularly anal sex, there is a medication currently on the NHS called PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) that you can take before sex to keep yourself safe. Currently this is only being offered to people who meet certain criteria so if you feel it might be an option for you, I’d encourage you to discuss it with you local clinic.
It’s also important to note that people living with HIV who are on medication and have an undetectable viral load cannot pass the virus on to anyone.
Ultimately though, things like PrEP and PEP only protect against HIV, not other STIs. While oral sex is considered safer than other forms of penetration, all sex carries a certain amount of risk.
Your best bet to stay safe is to have open and frank conversations with all of your partners about testing, and where possible, to use a barrier such as a condom or a dental dam. Bacterial infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea can easily be spread through oral sex and don’t always produce symptoms. It’s a good idea to test after every new partner, and to remember that most STIs take 1-2 weeks to show up in a test after infection (HIV can take up to 90 days to show up).
Remember to have fun as well! Testing, condoms, PrEP and PEP are all important things to have in your toolbox, and are there to help you enjoy a happy, healthy sex life.
Please also remember that we are not a team of medical professionals and for expert advice you should contact your GP.