Relationships + HIV/STI Risk
Guys in monogamous relationships (having sex with only one guy) often think they are at low risk of picking up or passing on HIV. This is true, but only if you know your status and that of your partner and neither of you are having sex with other people. Before you make a decision on whether to use condoms, you should make a plan to get tested for HIV and STIs together. Although difficult, discussing whether sex is taking place outside the relationship is an important way of protecting your health. For instance, you may decide that if sex outside the relationship occurs, whether planned or in the head of the moment, it should be as low risk as possible (i.e. no anal sex or 100% condom use with other partners).
Open relationships come in a variety of forms, but most rely on rules or an agreed-upon understanding. The risk of picking up or passing on HIV and other STIs depends on your behaviour inside and outside the relationship. Trust and honesty remain key factors in determining the success of any relationship, and rules work for the couple only when they are followed by both partners. Things to consider: What kind of sex are you having with your partner? With others? Is your partner the same HIV status as you? Are your other partners? How do you know their status? Are you using condoms with your primary partner? With others?
Some guys who aren’t in a committed relationship limit their sexual partners to one or two sex-friends in order to reduce their risk of picking up or passing on HIV. While reducing your number of sexual partners will reduce your risk of HIV and other STIs, risks are still involved, since most friends-with-benefits are not exclusive. As with monogamous and open relationships, maintaining trust and honesty regarding sex outside the relationship is an important aspect of managing your risk.