If you think condoms are the only option when it comes to your safe-sex toolbox, think again. Today, there is quite the arsenal of prevention methods at your disposal when it comes to protecting yourself and your sexual partner. But just like with any tool in the toolbox, it is vital that you know how to use it so you don’t end up hurting yourself or someone else. So let’s open our sexual safety kits and get to work. 



Let’s start with the basics. Condoms are still considered one of the best ways to practice safe sex. When worn correctly, a condom is extremely effective in preventing the transmission of HIV. For gay men, the consistent use of condoms is 76 percent effective in preventing new HIV infections during anal sex. When used correctly and without error, a condom is up to 99 percent effective in preventing HIV transmission. Condoms are also effective in preventing most other STIs, but are not as effective in preventing the transmission of herpes, Hepatitis B or HPV.

 The great thing about condoms is that they are cheap, easy to buy and use, and do not require a prescription.



As the latest one of the tools to be added to the toolbox, PrEP has experienced its fair share of controversy sce the FDA approved Truvada for PrEP in 2012. Although some may disagree on when PrEP should be used and when it shouldn’t, the facts remain the same. When taken daily, PrEP prevents the transmission of HIV by up to 96 percent, but does not protect against other STIs.

To use PrEP, a person must meet with their healthcare worker to conduct blood work to determine that they are HIV-negative, and he/she must return every three to four months for blood screening. Although most side effects are temporary, about one in every 200 people will experience a change in kidney function, so PrEP users will need to keep up with their lab work to ensure that their kidneys are functioning properly. Most insurance providers do cover PrEP and there are several assistance programs for people who need additional help. People who use PrEP can stop using the prevention pill if they determine they do not need it anymore.



If PrEP is considered the HIV control pill, then PEP would be the HIV morning after pill. If someone believes that they have had unprotected sexual contact with someone who is HIV-positive, they can take PEP as a way to reduce their chances of becoming HIV-positive. The drug keeps HIV from making copies of itself and spreading throughout your body. A person must take PEP within 72 hours of contact and will need to continue the 2-3 antiretroviral combination therapy for 28 days. PEP can cause minor side effects such as nausea and loose stools and is not always effective in preventing a person from becoming infected with the virus. So as far as prevention methods go, PEP should be considered an emergency backup option instead of a daily approach to safe sex.

(to be continued)