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How to enjoy casual sex while protecting your partner

Living with HIV doesn’t have to end your sex life, and you don’t have to wait for an undetectable status or to be in a serious relationship to have sex. To help prevent the spread of HIV it is important to use protection if you don’t have an undetectable status.  

But there are a few things to consider when deciding to have sex without protection (i.e., condoms or dental dams). These include HIV prevention, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), pregnancy prevention (if applicable), and the laws in your state.

HIV prevention involves understanding what your viral load means. Viral load is the amount of HIV in your blood.

By taking HIV medication, you can reach an undetectable HIV status, and the virus can become untransmittable – also known as U=U (undetectable=untransmittable). Once you’re undetectable for six months and continue treatment to stay undetectable, you cannot spread HIV to others.

Before you hit the sheets, ask your partner about testing. If you are hooking up with someone through an online dating website, we have some pointers for you too.

Here’s how to start the conversation

Your HIV status is your information to share. Disclosing your HIV status to anyone can be difficult but telling a sexual partner may be particularly intimidating.

Your relationship situation will probably influence whether you disclose your status: telling a causal partner you have HIV is likely different from telling a long-term partner.

In Pennsylvania, the law doesn’t require notifying your partner if you’re HIV positive, but it is recommended you tell your partner about your HIV status before having sex.

Not sure how to bring it up?

To start a conversation with someone you have casual sex with, try these:

  • “I know we haven’t been using protection, and if we’re going to keep doing that, we should get tested for HIV and other STIs so that we can really enjoy it safely.”
  • “I’ve been thinking about HIV lately.  Do you know your status?”
  • “Whether your status is positive or negative, I just want us both to be open and honest about it.”

“If you want to take the next step in our relationship or stop using protection, we should get tested for HIV and other STIs at my clinic or even try an at-home test.”

What about a one-night stand?

If you decide to disclose your status to your hook-up – keep it simple and direct. Let them know if you are on effective treatment and even if you have an undetectable viral load, talk to them about getting tested and PrEP – an HIV medicine to reduce the chances of HIV infection for those who aren’t HIV positive.

Often, sex happens in the heat of the moment, and you may not have the time to tell your partner before. If you know there’s a potential risk of HIV, consider PEP – an emergency form of antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Taking PEP within 72 hours of possible HIV exposure can protect your partner from getting the virus.

If you are uncomfortable sharing your status or didn’t have time to tell someone after having sex, there are anonymous texting services you can use to alert the individual to seek HIV testing services.

The most effective way to ensure your partner has not contracted the virus is to encourage them to get tested, especially if you have engaged in unprotected sex or the condom broke.

Protect the health of others

Whether your partners’ results come back positive or negative, they need to know and understand their status.

If they are HIV-positive, they can start treatment to keep them healthy, reach an undetectable status and reduce the chance of passing the virus to others.

If they are HIV-negative, there are precautions they can take to help remain negative while continuing to have sex with someone who has positive.

For free, confidential HIV testing, treatment services and resources visit TakeControlHIV.com.