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Safer sex alternatives

Not all types of sex carry the same levels of risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

What are the high-risk sex activities?

Having vaginal sex, oral sex or anal sex without a condom carries a high risk of getting an STI.

Having group sex also carries a high risk, as does having or many partners at the same time or over a period of time.

Is any type of sex totally safe?

No type of sex involving physical contact between two people can ever be 100% safe unless:

  • you have both tested negative for all STIs
  • you've both had no sex with anyone else since your negative results
  • you've both had no contact with blood, semen, breast milk or vaginal fluids from anyone else since your negative test results.

Even if you are not at risk of an STI there are other risks such as emotional ones, or risk of pregnancy

Remember, you should only have sex with someone if you are sure you are ready for sex with them.

Which types of sex are safest?

In terms of STIs, sex that involves no contact between people is safest.

These include:

However, all of these types of sex may carry other risks. Relationships, feelings and reputations can all be damaged if you don't take care. 

What can be done to make other types of sex safer?

To reduce the risk of getting or passing on an STI:

  • Always use condoms and dental dams for oral, vaginal and anal sex
  • Use plenty of condom-friendly lubrication for anal sex
  • Learn how to use condoms and dental dams properly
  • Always use a fresh condom with any sex toys
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before and after touching yourself
  • Don't touch your genitals, mouth or eyes before washing your hands if you've touched your partner's genitals
  • Don't touch your partner's genitals, mouth or eyes before washing your hands if you've touched your own genitals
  • Take more care when having sex when under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Regularly get tested for STIs
  • Talk about testing with your partner
  • Communicate with sexual partners about what you do and what you don't want

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Guidance on accessing contraception during coronavirus pandemic.