Is Anal Sex Riskier Than Vaginal Sex?
Casual sex can be risky — yes, even safe sex. And using a condom every time isn’t a sure bet against sexually transmitted infections. Some STIs, including herpes, HPV, and syphilis, can be spread from skin-to-skin contact from areas a condom doesn’t cover.
And what’s worse: According to a recent survey, about 70 percent of men age 25 to 34 aren’t wearing any protection at all. That means gonorrhoea, chlamydia, HPV, syphilis, herpes, and HIV can be easily transmitted, whether you’re having vaginal or anal sex. But which act is riskier? It’s nearly impossible to compare, because most people don’t just do it one way or the other, and that messes with the data.
But when it comes to HIV, scientists have been able to focus on this one disease and closely study the risks of spreading it both vaginally and anally. According to one study, the odds of getting HIV from (receiving) unprotected anal sex is nearly 20 times higher than the risk of getting it from unprotected vaginal sex. Part of the reason is simple biology: the anus is more venerable to trauma, since the lining is more fragile. And that can lead to an easier path of entry for the virus to spread.
How To Reduce Risk Of STIs:
Whether it’s anal sex or vaginal, here are a few easy steps to protect yourself:
1. Get Tested
Symptoms or not, you should know your status and get tested regularly. “In general, if you’re single and you have more than one partner per year, you should get screened at least on a yearly basis,” says Angarone. “If you have multiple partners per year, you may want to get screened more often.”
Related: 4 STDs You Might Already Have
2. Wrap Up With Rubber
Beyond screening, the best thing you can do is use protection against STIs, whether you’re having oral, vaginal, or anal sex. Condoms aren’t 100 percent protective, but beyond abstinence, they’re your best bet, Angarone says.
3. Lube Up wisely
Avoid oil-based lubes, since they can break down the condom and cause leaking.
Related: Are STDs A Deal Breaker?
If you have symptoms of an STD like genital warts, weird discharge, or swelling, see a doctor and start a treatment plan before you start having sex again, especially unprotected sex.
Originally published on menshealth.com