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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 with an HIV-positive man, probably because of the type of tissue inside the vagina and cervix. However, the risk of an HIV-positive woman passing on HIV to her male partner during vaginal sex without a condom, or without using HIV treatment as prevention, is also high.

Sexually transmitted infections in either partner can increase the risk (as these can cause inflammation or tissue damage in the genital area), as can other causes of damage to tissue in either partner’s genital area. The risk is also increased if the HIV-positive partner has a high viral load or if the HIV-positive partner is the man and he ejaculates into his partner.

Vaginal sex without a condom can also result in pregnancy. If you are concerned about the possibility of you or your partner becoming pregnant, there are various types of contraception you can use. It’s important to know that some HIV treatment can interfere with hormonal contraception, so the person prescribing contraception needs to know if you are taking HIV treatment. Emergency contraception is also available from clinics and from pharmacies without prescription. It may also be appropriate for the HIV-negative partner to take post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

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.

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 It may have been superseded by more recent developments.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.
Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap
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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.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.