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Fact sheet: HIV & men who have sex with men

Are you a man who has sex with men?Fact sheet PDF download

Check out these specific HIV prevention tips and facts for you.

Men who have sex with men - MSM and HIV

MSM are not always gay or bisexual, and some may have had or still have, sex with women too.

MSM need to know that unprotected anal sex with a person who is HIV-positive is a common route of HIV transmission.

The lining of the anus is very thin and allows the virus to enter the body easily.

Safe sex for MSM


Use a new condom every time you have:

Anal sex – enjoy safe anal sex!

  • This may cause small tears in the anus, as it is thin and does not self-lubricate.
  • Use lots of water-based (not oil-based) lube to prevent tearing the skin of the anus.
  • Use latex gloves for anal fingering or fisting.
  • Both of you have the right to insist on using a condom.1

Oral sex (blow job) – enjoy safe oral sex!

  •  Bleeding cuts/ sores on your gums can be an entry point for HIV, so use a condom when giving and receiving oral sex.


  • Circumcision can reduce the risk of HIV transmission between MSM but you still need to use condoms too.
  • However, circumcision is only beneficial if you mainly take the ‘top’ role during anal sex.
  • If circumcision is being offered in your area, you have the right to request it.1
  • Circumcision should be voluntary, and carried out by a trained medical professional.

Read AVERT’s ‘HIV & Circumcision’ fact sheet for more information.

STI check-ups

  • Have regular sexual health check-ups to diagnose and treat sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Hepatitis is more common amongst MSM. Ask your healthcare provider for the Hepatitis A and B vaccination. Unfortunately no vaccination exists for Hepatitis C.2

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)

  • Talk about HIV and STIs - you cannot guess who is HIV-positive and who is HIV-negative.
  • PrEP is a daily antiretroviral (ARV) drug taken before HIV exposure.
  • Trials are on-going, to assess whether PrEP would be an effective form of HIV prevention in the future.3
  • PrEP is only available in a limited number of countries.

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)

PEP is a 4-week course of ARV drugs taken after potential HIV exposure. For example if you had:

  • anal sex with a man who is HIV-positive and your condom breaks
  • unprotected sex with a man who has an unknown HIV status.

It must be started within 72 hours of possible exposure to be effective.

Ask a healthcare professional about access to PrEP or PEP.

Read AVERT’s ‘Emergency HIV Treatment’ fact sheet for more information.

HIV testing

  • Access HIV testing regularly to know your status.
  • Remember the 3-month window period - an HIV test could give you a false result until 3 months after exposure.
  • You may choose not to disclose your sexuality, but it is important to still access HIV testing.
  • People who have recently been infected but don’t know it, are more likely to pass on HIV, so always know your status.4

Read AVERT’s ‘HIV Testing’ fact sheet for more information.

Receiving a positive test result

HIV Treatment

  • Antiretroviral treatment (ART) for MSM is the same as anyone who is living with HIV.
  • ART lowers your viral load, which reduces the chance of onwards HIV transmission, and improves your health if taken correctly.

Living with HIV

  • Do not assume that any partners you have know your positive status.
  • Be aware of HIV transmission laws.
  • If you are a HIV-negative man and plan to have unprotected sex with a HIV-positive man, this risks STIs, Hep C and re-infection with a different strain of HIV.2

Know your rights

You have the right to:

  • use a condom
  • refuse to disclose your sexuality or HIV status
  • a voluntary and confidential HIV test
  • enjoy safe gay sex!

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Page last reviewed:
23 July 2015
Next review date:
13 January 2017