Types of safer sex

Anal and vaginal/frontal sex

  • Has the highest risk for getting an STI or HIV.

  • Use an internal or external condom.

  • Use water-based or silicone-based lube.

  • Infections such as herpesgenital warts and syphilis can be transmitted through regular skin-to-skin contact. A barrier such as a condom, dental dam or latex glove reduces risk but only protects the covered area.

  • Use a different condom with each partner, and when a penis/sex toy is moved between vagina/front hole and anus.


Oral sex

  • Has a low risk but it’s still possible to get or pass on STIs such as herpessyphilis or gonorrhoea.

  • Has a very low risk of HIV transmission.

  • Avoid if you have bleeding gums, ulcers, a sore throat or had recent dental work.

  • Avoid receiving oral sex until you are fully healed from genital surgery as there is a risk of infection.

  • Avoid letting a partner ejaculate in your mouth – you can also use flavoured condoms or dental dams.



  • Make sure you don’t have any cuts on your hands or fingers. Keep your nails short and use plenty of lube.

  • Clean your hands thoroughly using warm soapy water before fingering a different partner as fluids can transfer on the surface of fingers.

  • Use a latex glove to cover the finger or avoid fingering more than one person.



  • Rimming is licking someone’s anus.

  • This had an extremely low risk for HIV but it's possible to pick up hepatitis A or bacterial infections such as shigella or gonorrhoea.

  • Good personal hygiene can reduce risks slightly.

  • Use a barrier like a dental dam to cover the anus.



  • Frottage involves rubbing genitals together without any penetrative sex.

  • Low risk but a chance of transferring skin-contact bacteria or viruses (such as herpes, syphilis or genital warts).

  • Parasites (such as scabies or crabs) can be passed via skin contact.


Rougher sex

  • Use a different condom with each partner, and when a penis/sex toy is moved between vagina/front hole and anus.

  • Bondage, fisting or S&M can result in bleeding or tearing of the anus, vagina/front hole or mouth, providing a route for STIs, HIV and hepatitis.

  • Use latex gloves when fisting and don’t share a pot of lube as minute traces of blood can be transferred onto your hands, making it easy to pass on hepatitis C.

Information taken from Terrence Higgins Trust.