Condomless Sex: What you need to know


Some guys have anal sex without a condom. Sometimes this is referred to as bareback sex. At ACT, we encourage men to practice safer sex by using latex or polyethylene condoms and water or silicone-based lubricant for anal sex. This is the best way of avoiding HIV infection, HIV transmission, or infection with other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

However, we also understand that there are other ways guys can reduce their risks. While these ways are not as effective as condom use, we respect the decisions men make for themselves. Our hope is that guys can make fully informed and conscientious decisions based on accurate information, if they choose to have condomless sex.

All adults have the right to choose the type of sex they want to have. People have the right to decide what level of risk they are willing to accept for themselves.

In partnership with the Ontario Gay Men’s Sexual Health Alliance, ACT created a comprehensive resource on gay men’s sexual health. To learn more about other ways to reduce risk when having condomless sex visit: www.thesexyouwant.ca

Things to Consider if you are Thinking about Condomless Sex:

  • Make sure your partner is actually agreeing to condomless sex: he shouldn’t be drunk or high, or in any other type of altered state that may prevent him from making a decision he wouldn’t normally make for himself. Just because a partner didn't ask to use a condom, doesn't necessarily mean he wants to have bareback sex: perhaps he's making an assumption about your HIV status, or he doesn't feel he can ask to use a condom. Think about this.

  • If you are HIV positive it’s good to be aware of the legal obligations surrounding HIV disclosure (i.e. telling your HIV status to your sexual partner).

  • Use lots of water and silicone based lube when fucking. Apply more lube as you fuck. Water and silicone based lube will minimize the risk of irritation to the mucosal lining of your anus which allows a route of entry for HIV and other STIs. Lube also makes the initial penetration feel good! Avoid using saliva for lube. Try silicone lube. It has a different thickness and texture than water based, is safe with condoms, and may be hotter for you.

  • Spread your condomless sex adventures over time to allow any potential damage to your ass to heal.

  • Be aware of pain levels. Fucking may cause discomfort or sensitivity, but it shouldn’t be painful. There doesn’t have to be blood for there to be damage.

  • Early withdrawal does not reduce the risk for HIV transmission, as pre-cum can also contain HIV. Early withdrawal also does not prevent the transmission of other STIs (like syphilis).

  • Don’t fuck if you have open sores on your penis.

  • Don’t get fucked if you have sores around your ass.

  • Before getting fucked, relax your asshole as much as possible: try anal massage, get finger-fucked or rimmed (lots of foreplay!). Repeated deep breathing helps your hole open up and makes it feel good.

  • It's best not to put anything (like a dildo or butt plug) that has been in another person's asshole, into your ass.

  • Douching (rinsing inside the ass) makes sense. Fecal matter (shit) doesn’t make good lube! Here are some tips we’ve collected that will make your experience more pleasurable:
        • Use warm water only. Douching removes the natural protective fluids in the mucosal membranes of the ass.
        • It’s best to wait at least 60 minutes following douching before insertion to allow time for your ass fluids to regenerate.
        • If you douche often, it helps to replace the good bacteria (microflora or probiotics) in your gut. This restores balance and aids digestion and absorption. You can get probiotics from yogurt or in capsule or powder from your local health food store. We don’t recommend packaged enemas you buy at the pharmacy. Not only will this solution irritate your mucosa, it will make you shit more than you need to. If you are concerned about your bowel movements, a diet rich in fibre and plenty of water can increase your overall ‘fuck-a-bility’ in a much healthier way than regular douching.

  • Urinate (piss) immediately after fucking. This can help to clean out the urethra (piss slit) and may help to flush out any bacteria.

  • If you are a trans guy and are getting fucked in your front hole without a condom, be aware that you may be able to become pregnant.

  • If you are HIV negative, get regularly tested for STIs and HIV. If you are HIV positive, you should be aware that STIs are infections that can have a fast and negative impact on your health and your HIV viral load, so you should also consider getting regularly tested for STIs and Hepatitis C, as many STIs often have no noticeable symptoms. Talk to your doctor, local HIV/STI information line, sexual health clinic or AIDS service organization for more information on STIs and how they impact HIV.


Some questions you may have about condomless sex.


1. How risky is condomless sex for HIV transmission?

2. How safe is condomless sex for other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?

3. Is it true the ‘top’ is at less risk for getting HIV than the ‘bottom’?

4. I have weighed the pros and cons of condomless sex, and I’ve decided to do it. Is there anything wrong with that?

5. I’m HIV positive and I choose not to use condoms. Why don’t other guys take responsibility for protecting themselves if they want to?

6. I’m HIV negative and I choose not to use condoms. Wouldn’t someone who is HIV-positive tell me before having sex?

7. I’m HIV positive and I only have condomless sex because I feel I will be rejected if I tell my potential partners of my status.

8. I’m HIV negative and I’m worried that if I ask to use a condom, my partner might believe I am HIV positive.

9. My partner and I are both HIV positive. Why shouldn’t we have anal sex without condoms?

10. I feel guilty whenever I have condomless sex . Why do I sometimes slip up and have unprotected sex?

11. I have condomless sex because it’s an intimate feeling; I feel closer to my partner.

12. I am HIV positive but I take anti-HIV medications and my viral load is undetectable. Doesn't this mean that condomless sex is OK because I can't transmit the virus?


1. How risky is condomless sex for HIV transmission?

Let’s break down the possibilities.
    • If you and your partner are both HIV negative, then there’s obviously no risk for HIV transmission. However, you may not really know the HIV status of your partner, or you may be assuming that his HIV status is the same as yours. In addition, you might think that you are HIV negative because you got tested: but when were you last tested for HIV? Six months ago? A year ago? Longer? Have you had unprotected anal sex with others since your test, and as a result become infected with HIV? You might have HIV and not know it: studies have shown that almost 20% of gay and bi men who think they are HIV negative actually have HIV.
    • If you are HIV negative while your partner is HIV positive, unprotected anal sex is high risk for HIV transmission. The Canadian AIDS Society’s HIV Transmission Guidelines define "high-risk" practices as those presenting the real potential for HIV transmission because they involve an exchange of body fluids such as semen, vaginal fluid, blood or breast milk. In addition, a significant number of scientific studies have repeatedly associated those practices with HIV infection.

2. How safe is condomless sex for other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?

There are several STIs that you are at risk of getting if you have bareback sex. These include chlamydia, gonorrhea, Hepatitis B and C, genital warts, herpes and syphilis. Having an STI can weaken your immune system, which is a concern if you are living with HIV. Having an STI also increases the risk of HIV transmission. We've seen a dramatic increase in syphilis among gay and bisexual men in Toronto and other parts of Ontario. Syphilis can be easily spread through bareback (condomless) anal sex.

3. Is it true the ‘top’ is at less risk for getting HIV than the ‘bottom’?

Yes, you are less likely to be infected as the top than the bottom, but the risk isn’t eliminated. According to a study in Australia, around 1 in 5 men who recently contracted HIV were tops. In a research study published in 2007, among a sample size of 102 gay and bi men who were recently diagnosed HIV-positive, 10 of them were infected despite being the top.

4. I have weighed the pros and cons of condomless sex, and I’ve decided to do it. Is there anything wrong with that?

Condomless sex is not morally “wrong”. There are a many things really hot about it; however it does have greater risks. These may or may not be worth it to you. We believe knowledge is power. If you chose to do this, we encourage you to be as informed as possible. Use the information here and in the suggested resources to be as informed as possible and reduce the risks to you and others.

5. I’m HIV positive and I choose to have condomless sex. Why don’t other guys take responsibility for protecting themselves if they want to?

Well, some men assume that if their partner doesn't tell them they are HIV positive then they must be HIV negative. If you are HIV positive, and you don't tell your partner, and he assumes you are HIV negative, you are putting him at risk for HIV infection. Everyone should take responsibility for protecting themselves and their sex partners. If you are HIV positive, you should be aware that you could be charged for failing to disclose (tell your sex partner) your HIV positive status. Find out more about this issue here.

There are many reasons why guys will consent to condomless sex without knowing the HIV status of their sexual partner:
    • You might think that it is hotter than sex with a condom and so it's worth the risks;
    • You might assume something that a guy said in his online profile indicates he is into it (e.g. if he says he likes it "wild" or is into "pig play")'
    • You might be HIV positive and assume that your partner is also HIV positive;
    • You might be HIV negative and assume that your partner is also HIV negative;
    • You might assume that your partner actually knows his HIV status;
    • You might have an allergy to latex;
    • He might be so hot that you feel like you don't care if you use condoms;
    • You may be uncomfortable or afraid to mention condom use for fear of being rejected;
    • You may be anxious about using condoms for fear of losing your erection;
    • You may be really turned on during sex and decide, at the moment, that it’s worth the risk;
    • You may be drunk or high;
    • You may have been rubbing your dick against his hole, and slipped it in for a bit and decided to just keep going;
    • Your or he may not be fully aware of the risks.

6. I’m HIV negative and I choose to have condomless sex. Wouldn’t someone who is HIV positive tell me before having sex?

Some guys might think they are HIV negative (because their last HIV test was 'negative'), but may have done something since that last test to cause them to become infected with HIV. They assume they are HIV negative, but in fact they aren't. Studies have shown that most new HIV transmission happens between guys who both think they are HIV negative, but one of them has been recently infected with HIV and doesn't yet know it. Studies have shown that when someone is newly infected with HIV, they have very high amounts of HIV circulating in their blood, semen, rectal and vaginal secretions, making HIV transmission likely.

Also, not all men may disclose that they have HIV before having sex with you. There are many reasons for this. They might assume that since you didn’t ask to use a condom, you are also HIV positive. It takes a lot of guts to tell someone you have HIV. Often, HIV positive men are rejected once they reveal their HIV status, but if they don’t say anything, they won’t get rejected. In a casual sex encounter, what would you do?

7. I’m HIV positive and I only have condomless sex because I feel I will be rejected if I tell my potential partners of my status.

This is a valid concern. We all know that discrimination happens against people who are HIV positive - even within the gay community. Remind your partner that people who are HIV negative should also be using condoms, as someone could be infected and not know it - people have often had risky sex since their last HIV test.

8. I’m HIV negative and I’m worried that if I ask to use a condom, my partner might believe I am HIV positive.

That could happen. But what if your partner is HIV positive and assumes that you are also HIV positive since you did not ask to use a condom? You could tell your partner that you’re HIV negative and you would like to use a condom. If he then says ‘if you know you’re HIV negative, why not forget the condom’, you can tell him that there are other STIs to think about. You can also tell him that research studies show that up to 20% of gay or bi guys who think they are HIV negative, are in fact HIV positive but don't know it: they may have been tested quite some time ago, and got HIV since their last test. They think they are HIV negative, but in fact they aren't.

9. My partner and I are both HIV positive. Why shouldn’t we have condomless sex?

It’s your choice to have condomless sex together. We’re not saying you should or shouldn’t do it. You should talk to your partner (if you have sex with other people) about the kinds of sex you have with others. STIs, like syphilis, are still a risk to you, and can compromise your ability to fight HIV. STIs increase your viral load (a measure of the amount of HIV in your blood), and certain STIs can progress much more rapidly in people living with HIV. If you are HIV-positive and have bareback sex, it's important to get tested regularly for STIs and Hepatitis C.

10. I feel guilty whenever I have condomless sex. Why do I sometimes slip up and have condomless sex?

We’re all human. Nobody is perfect. Try to better understand the situations in which you get involved in condomless sex. Where are you usually? How are you typically feeling? What reasoning do you use to make it more acceptable for you to have unprotected anal sex? Does your partner pressure you?

Just because you might occasionally 'slip up' and have condomless sex doesn't mean you are necessarily a 'barebacker'. Some guys feel that sex without a condom is more care-free, more pleasurable and exciting. Others are worried about rejection, or about losing their erection. If you really want to be using condoms for anal sex (and there are many good reasons to do this!), there are ways you can experience intense pleasure and intimacy. And, you can learn to wear a condom and keep your dick hard.

11. I have condomless sex because it’s an intimate feeling; I feel closer to my partner.

Some believe having anal sex without condoms is the ultimate, most intimate, sex act. There’s nothing wrong with believing that. But what about other sexual acts that might give you the same, or nearly the same level of intimacy with your partner? There are many different ways to feel intimacy with a partner and anal sex without a condom is only one of them. Try exploring other aspects of your sex life.

12. I am HIV positive but I take anti-HIV medications and my viral load is undetectable. Doesn't this mean that condomles sex is OK because I can't transmit the virus?

While anti-HIV medications can dramatically reduce the amount of virus in your blood (and other body fluids), therefore reducing the likelihood of an HIV positive person passing on HIV to an HIV negative sex partner, there remains the possibility of HIV transmission.

Viral load is the amount of virus in a specific sample amount of blood. When a viral load is so low that it can’t be measured with common testing procedures, it is called ‘undetectable’. Some people call this ‘zero viral load’, but the virus is still present - it just means the number of copies of HIV is too low for routine tests to detect. Although it's quite rare, research studies have shown that some people with an undetectable viral load in their blood may have a viral load in their cum (or rectal secretions, or vaginal secretions) that is high enough to pass HIV onto their partners. Most of the time, guys with undetectable blood viral loads who are taking their anti- HIV medications as prescribed, and get regularly tested for STIs (and treated for STIs if need be!), also have undetectable viral loads in cum and rectal secretions. Having an undetectable viral load clearly reduces the likelihood of HIV transmission, but we can't rule out the possibility that HIV transmission still can occur. Condoms can provide that additional protection.


Updated April 2012