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HIV & men who have sex with men fact sheet

Are you a man who has sex with men? 

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.

Safer sex options for MSM


Use a new condom every time you have:

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)

  • There is a small risk of HIV from oral sex if you have bleeding cuts/sores in your mouth, so use a condom when giving and receiving oral sex.2


  • Evidence about whether circumcision can reduce the risk of HIV for MSM is not clear3
  • Studies suggest circumcision may only be beneficial if you mainly take the ‘top’ role during anal sex4
  • If circumcision is being offered in your area, you have the right to request it
  • 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.5

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.
  • PrEP is an effective form of HIV prevention.6
  • 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.7

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 for 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.
  • If you plan to have unprotected sex with someone who is also HIV-positive, this risks STIs, Hep C, re-infection with a different strain of HIV and transmitted drug resistance.8

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 sex.


Last full review: 
01 March 2016

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Last updated:
10 May 2017
Last full review:
01 March 2016