Having safer sex means you are having sexual contact with a partner without putting yourself or them at risk of sexually transmissible infections (STIs) or blood borne viruses (BBVs).
If your partner does not want to practise safer sex, please visit our condom negotiation fact sheet for advice (the advice can be used for other forms of barrier protection as well).
The most common tool for safer sex is a condom, but there are a few other options for different types of sex as well.
Condoms are the best protection against STIs and sexual transmission of BBVs. Condoms should be used during vaginal, oral and anal sex. There are different types of condoms for different sizes and preferences, as well as condoms that are not made of latex for people with latex allergies. You can buy condoms from supermarkets, convenience stores, pharmacies and many other places. You can usually get free condoms from sexual health clinics.
Unsure of how to use a condom? This is a great guide from Play Safe.
Dams, or dental dams as they are also called, are sheets of latex which can be used for oral sex. The dam provides a physical barrier between a mouth and a partner’s vagina or anus to reduce the spread of STIs. You may be able to get dams from a pharmacy or a sexual health clinic, or you can make one by cutting the ends off a condom and then cutting down the length of the condom so it becomes a rectangular sheet. Try using lubricant with a dam for extra pleasure!
Female condoms look a bit like a big male condom, with the ring on both ends. One of the rings is at the opening, like in a male condom, but the ring at the other (closed) end is to help it to sit inside a woman’s vagina. The female condom lines the vagina to provide a physical barrier between a vagina and a penis. Female condoms give women more control to protect themselves against STIs and BBVs. Female condoms are not widely used in Australia (but are usually available at sexual health clinics), but as their design improves and they become easier to use, they may become more popular.
Using latex gloves for digital sex (fingering), can help prevent the spread of germs and also protects against BBVs, if there are cuts or wounds on the hand.
Lubricants reduce friction during sex, making movements feel smoother and it usually enhances pleasure. Lubricants can also help to prevent condoms breaking, especially in rough sex. Water-based lubricants are the best option to use with latex condoms as they do not weaken the latex. Using oils or petroleum jelly (like Vaseline) can weaken latex condoms so they break more easily, or can even cause small holes in the latex (reducing the effectiveness of the condom), so they should not be used with latex condoms.
If your condom breaks during sex you may need to go to a sexual health clinic for an STI check-up and also decide if the information below is relevant to you.
If you are a woman not using other forms of contraception you can get emergency contraception (the morning after pill) from your local chemist. You should do this as soon as possible because it becomes less effective the longer you wait.
If you believe you have been at risk of getting HIV, you may want to consider getting post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), to help prevent against HIV. You should do this as soon as possible because it becomes less effective the longer you wait. You can access more information and advice about post-exposure prophylaxis online or by calling: 1800 889 887.