Sexual Transmission

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When someone is living with HIV it means that HIV is present in their body. As HIV is present in semen, vaginal fluid and the anal secretions of a person who is HIV positive there may be a risk from HIV transmission if you are engaging in sexual activity with them.

Any kind of sexual activity may result in a possible risk of HIV transmission. The thing to remember here is that HIV cannot get past skin, unless the skin is broken. Skin is an effective barrier against HIV.

Sexual intercourse (penis in vagina, penis in anus) without a condom or female condom, is the route by which HIV is most frequently transmitted worldwide.

Any kind of unprotected (without the use of a condom, female condom, glyde dam or glove) sexual activity may result in sexual transmission of HIV. The risk differs depending on the type of sexual activity.


In order for sexual transmission of HIV to occur there must be:

At least one person living with HIV (HIV positive)


At least one person who is not living with HIV (HIV negative)


And at least one type of unprotected sexual activity between these people


To avoid sexual transmission of HIV the most effective way of all is to:

Know your own sexual health status by having a full sexual health screening.


Know the sexual health status of your sexual partner(s)


Sometimes you may decide to share sexual activity with people who cannot tell you their sexual health status. You may never have had this conversation with your current partner for example. This means that they don’t know if they are living with HIV, so you don’t know if you can contract it from them.

There are many types of sexual activity you can engage in that carry no risk of HIV transmission. For more information about this please check out the SAFER SEX page located in both the Men’s and Women’s sections of the sexual health section.


Unprotected sexual activities that carry a risk of HIV transmission include:

  • Oral sex – mouth to penis, vagina or anus
  • Penetrative sex – penis or sharing sex toys in the vagina or anus
  • Fisting – fingers or fists in the vagina or anus
  • Blood sports – the use of needles, branding, scarring or other blood letting activities during sexual activity