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Five Safer-Sex Methods That Work! (And One That Never Does)

A lot has changed since 1983 when HIV was first discovered. Bangs are out, beards are in, and condoms are no longer the end-all when it comes to HIV prevention.

Today, a young gay man has a variety of options to prevent HIV at his dispose, and none of which should require fear or hesitance when it comes to his sex life. Unfortunately, the pitiful sex education provided to gay youth fails to mention a practical approach to gay sex. To make up for it, here is a quick and easy guide to selecting the safer-sex prevention method that works best for you.

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    Condoms – There hasn’t been enough studies on the efficacy of condoms in anal sex, but in a nutshell, condoms are the easiest and cheapest way to prevent HIV. However, if condoms were all it took to prevent HIV, new infections wouldn’t be on the rise among young gay and bisexual men. The majority of gay men reported that they failed to wear condoms 100 percent of the time. Overall, attempted consistent condom use was around 70 percent effective in preventing new HIV infection. In other words, condoms work, but only if you use them. If you are someone who doesn’t always manage to slip on a rubber, condoms aren’t the failsafe method you might have thought.

    Safe-Sex Suggestion: The standard condom was created for vaginal sex. Buying extra strong condoms, or anal condoms, decreases your risk of condom failure.

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    Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)

    Although the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, for HIV prevention might not be as easy as condoms to use, that very well may be why it works better for you. PrEP requires you to take real action to ensure your sexual safety. The use of PrEP requires a prescription from your doctor and regular check ups to ensure your health and compliance. When used daily, the HIV prevention pill is 99 percent effective in reducing HIV infection. Even if a user misses one or two doses per week, PrEP’s efficacy remains high. The key difference between PrEP and condoms is how it is administered. PrEP is taken with your morning breakfast or right before you go to sleep. Although it directly impacts your sexual health, taking PrEP is separate from the sexual experience. Let’s face it; “forgetting” to wear a condom is not the same thing as missing a pill.

    Safe-Sex Suggestion: Set a reminder on your phone so that you never miss a dose. We all forget from time to time.

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    Condoms + PrEP

    Even if you take PrEP religiously, the HIV prevention pill does not protect against other STIs. If you are unfamiliar with your sexual partner and wish to further protect yourself, the use of condoms and PrEP is your best bet.

    Safe-Sex Suggestion: If you want to have condomless sex without any worries, getting tested together can give you the peace of mind you are looking for. 

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    Treatment as Prevention (TasP)

    Think of Treatment as Prevention, or TasP, as PrEP for HIV-positive people, but with the added benefit of keeping you alive and healthy. Of course, if you are living with HIV, there are numerous reasons for you to stay compliant with your medication, but its use as TasP is probably the most applicable to your everyday dating life. When you achieve an undetectable viral load through treatment, which is often just a pill a day, you reduce your risk or transmitting the virus by 96 percent. But don’t let that 4 percent risk trip you up. To date, there has never been a confirmed case of someone with an undetectable viral load transmitting HIV.

    Safe-Sex Suggestion: Stay on top of your health and use a pillbox. It is all about the pillbox.

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    TasP + Condoms

    As with PrEP, combining condoms with TasP protects your from other STIs as well as HIV. It may also place you or your sexual partner at ease if either of you are not yet comfortable with the science of TasP. The use of condoms in addition to TasP is 100 percent effective and leaves you worry free. 

    Safe-Sex Suggestion: If you or your partner is still nervous, check out Gay Sex Ed: A Guide to Worry-Free Anal Sex.

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    Sero-Sorting (Choosing sex partners based on their HIV status)

    Molly, you in danger girl! Sero-sorting is the act of choosing your sexual partners based on their HIV-status, and it is an outdated, antiquated, and ineffective way to prevent HIV. Even though one in eight people living with HIV are unaware or their status, they account for one out of five new infections. According to a study presented at the 2012 Conference of Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) found that restricting sex to partners who you think are HIV-negative does not work as an effective prevention strategy. The problem being that many people are unaware of their HIV status, yet they assert that they are HIV-negative.