Condoms and dental dams help avert sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, from being passed between sexual partners. STIs can be transmitted between partners during various types of sex without a condom, including anal sex, vaginal sex, and oral sex.
Having sex without condoms can carry certain perils depending on how many partners you have and the type of sex you’re engaging in.
The Risk of STI Transmission is Higher With Condomless Sex
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) documents that millions of people in the United States contract an STI each year. Using condoms during sex diminishes the chance of transmission of most STIs, including HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, and certain types of hepatitis.
It’s possible to contract an STI and not see signs for days, months, or even years. If left untreated, some STIs can cause substantial health problems. This can include harm to major organs, infertility problems, complications during pregnancy, and even death.
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Does STI Risk Differ With Number of Partners?
The risk of contracting an STI is higher for individuals who have multiple sexual partners. People can lower their risk by using condoms consistently and by getting tested for STIs before each new partner.
When sexual partners choose to have condomless sex — or “barrier-free” sex — solely with each other, they are sometimes referred to as “fluid-bonded.”
If fluid-bonded sexual partners have been tested, and the test results indicate no STIs, then participating in sex without barriers is believed to have little to no risk of STIs. This hinges on the accuracy of STI test results and all fluid-bonded partners only having sex with each other.
Remember, some STIs, such as human papillomavirus (HPV), aren’t always included in a typical STI test. Planned Parenthood suggests that individuals who are fluid-bonded still get tested regularly for STIs.
Your physician can tell you more about how often you should get tested for STIs.
Does Having an STI Increase the Chance of Contracting HIV?
The chance of contracting HIV is higher for individuals living with an STI, especially syphilis, herpes, or gonorrhea.
STIs cause inflammation that can trigger the same immune cells HIV likes to attack and allows the virus to replicate more quickly. STIs can