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Heterosexual Fact Sheets – HIV and STIs

Fact sheet & Statistics

More than 75% of HIV diagnoses in Ontario’s Black community are attributed to heterosexual transmission. HIV incidence has been stable or increasing in Canadians exposed to HIV through heterosexual sex since 2008. According to 2011 national HIV estimates, 34% of HIV-positive people whose infection is attributable to a heterosexual exposure remain undiagnosed. That is why it is so important that you get tested, know your status and always use protection – even for heterosexual sex.

Risk Factors

  • Not using condoms
  • Not using clean equipment
  • Getting drunk and high lowers our ability to make clear decisions and increases our risk for rape or unprotected sex.
  • Semen can live in the body for up to 2-3 days, providing a lot of opportunity for HIV to get into the bloodstream.
  • Having a sexually transmitted infection or yeast infection will increase our HIV risk because a more white blood cells are present.
  • Experiences of racism affect self-esteem and can lead to unhealthy coping activities.
  • If we do not understand how we get HIV and that we are all at risk, we will not take action to lower our risk.
  • Sharing sex toys without cleaning them or using a condom puts a person at risk of contracting HIV or sexually transmitted infections.
  • It is quite common for one member of a family to come to Canada first, get established, and then send for the other. While apart, they may be involved in sexual relationships that could put them at risk.

Safe(r) Choices

There are many ways of protecting ourselves from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as:

  • Use latex or polyurethane condoms or insertive (female) condoms during sex. You should also use water-based lube whenever you use a condom.
  • Use a condom or dental dam (a square sheet of latex placed over the vagina) for oral sex. If you cannot find dental dams, you can cut the tip off a dry condom and cut along the length.
  • Don’t share injection or inhalation equipment
  • Use a new needle for tattooing every time.
  • New mothers who are HIV-positive (HIV+) should avoid breast-feeding. New mothers who have never been tested for HIV should discuss testing for HIV and advice about breastfeeding with their health care provider.
  • Use alcohol responsibly. Plan ahead.
  • Keep sex toys for personal use. But, if you share, use a condom or clean the toy before use with your partners.
  • Wait at least 30 minutes after brushing or flossing before oral sex. Cuts and tears in one's mouth can allow HIV to enter the body during oral sex. 

Men

  • Some cultural, religious or social beliefs present unprotected sex as a man's prerogative, a sign of manhood and of good sexual health.
  • Community intolerance of gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men may lead some men to avoid HIV prevention education, or to engage in relationships that limit their ability to practice safer sex.

Women

  • For many reasons women are 5 times more likely than men to get HIV. For example, the female genital tract, cervix and uterus provide a greater surface area for absorbing the virus. Also, semen may remain in the genital tract and beyond for up to three days.
  • Some cultural and religious beliefs about the roles of women can limit their ability to negotiate safer sex or expose them to sexual abuse, assault or violence.
  • Some women live with the threat of violence in their relationships and may not feel safe enough to say no to sex or to negotiate safer sex.
  • Homelessness also increases HIV risk, as women may feel they must trade sex for shelter, or are at risk for rape.
  • Cultural practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) may increase the risk of becoming infected with HIV if (a) the tools used to perform FGM are not sterilized, (b) the affected area does not heal properly despite appearances, (c) the scarring is ruptured through sexual intercourse or childbirth.