Sexual health advice for bi people
Testing regularly for STIs is important, whoever you have sex with. But for many bisexual people, it can be difficult to get the sexual healthcare they need.
Research from Stonewall has found that LGBTQ+ people still face discrimination when they access healthcare services. And bi people are no exception - they’re often left feeling like their health needs are not well understood or that they’ve had to go through unnecessary questioning about their relationships and sex life. The impact of this is that 40% of bi men and 29% of bi women are not out about their sexuality to any medical professionals. (These figures only talk about men and women because Stonewall did not have a large enough sample of non-binary people).
When we talk about bisexuality, we’re referring to anyone who’s attracted to, and has sex with, partners of different genders. Some people prefer to call this pan or pansexual, or queer.
When you have sex with people of different genders, this can all make sexual health feel pretty complicated. Depending on the types of sex that you have, you might need to think about STI transmission and preventing pregnancy.
Sexually transmitted infections can be passed on through oral sex, sharing sex toys or sexual touching. STIs are most often passed on through penetrative vaginal or anal sex, but this does not mean it’s the only way to get one. And because many STIs do not have symptoms, you can carry one without knowing about it. No matter the type of sex you’re having, it’s important to get tested.
Using a barrier method during sex will help protect you and your partner from STIs. External condoms are great for covering penises and toys, internal condoms can be used inside the vagina or anus, dental dams cover the vagina or anus for oral sex and latex gloves can be used for fisting or fingering.
Use a new barrier method when moving between sex acts - for example, if you move from anal to vaginal play, change to a new condom or pair of gloves.
Vaccinations can protect against some STIs, including HPV, hepatitis A and hepatitis B. These are available free on the NHS for people who might have a higher chance of coming into contact with these infections. If you have a penis, and so do some of your sexual partners, you should check if you’re eligible.
PEP and PrEP
Anyone can contract HIV, but transmission is more likely if you have anal sex without a condom. Knowing about PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) and PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) can help you have safer sex.
If you think you’ve been exposed to HIV, PEP is a medication that can stop you contracting the virus. It must be taken within 72 hours of sex - the sooner the better.
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a medication you take before sex, that reduces your risk of getting HIV. If you sometimes have sex without a condom, you might want to take PrEP as extra protection against HIV.
Condoms will prevent pregnancy as well as stop STIs. But if you want ongoing contraception, you might want to consider one of the hormonal contraceptive methods available for women and people described as female at birth.
These often have benefits that go beyond preventing pregnancy - like giving you control over when you have a period, or helping improve your skin - so it could be worth exploring the pros and cons of these contraceptive methods.