The risk reduction of safe sex is not absolute; for example, the reduced risk to the receptive partner of acquiring HIV from HIV-seropositive partners not wearing condoms compared to when they wear them is estimated to be about a four to fivefold.Although some safe sex practices can be used as birth control (contraception), most forms of contraception do not protect against STIs; likewise, some safe sex practices, like partner selection and low-risk sex behavior, are not effective forms of contraception but should be considered before engaging in any form of intercourse to reduce risk.
It is believed that the term of safe sex was used in the professional literature in 1984, in the content of a paper on the psychological effect that HIV/AIDS may have on homosexual men.Although this term was primarily used in conjunction with the homosexual male population, in 1986 the concept was spread to the general population.Various programs were developed with the aim of promoting safe sex practices among college students.This article emphasized that most specialists advised their AIDS patients to practice safe sex.The concept included limiting the number of sexual partners, using prophylactics, avoiding bodily fluid exchange, and resisting the use of drugs that reduced inhibitions for high-risk sexual behavior.In 1997, specialists in this matter promoted the use of condoms as the most accessible safe sex method (besides abstinence) and they called for TV commercials featuring condoms.
During the same year, the Catholic Church in the United States issued their own "safer sex" guidelines on which condoms were listed, though two years later the Vatican urged chastity and heterosexual marriage, attacking the American Catholic bishops' guidelines.
For example, simultaneously using both the male condom and spermicide (applied separately, not pre-lubricated) is believed to reduce perfect-use pregnancy rates to those seen among implant users.
Proper use of barriers, such as condoms, depends on the cleanliness of surfaces of the barrier, handling can pass contamination to and from surfaces of the barrier unless care is taken.
A range of sex acts, sometimes called "outercourse", can be enjoyed with significantly reduced risks of infection or pregnancy. Non-penetrative sex includes practices such as kissing, mutual masturbation, rubbing or stroking and, according to the Health Department of Western Australia, this sexual practice may prevent pregnancy and most STIs.
However, non-penetrative sex may not protect against infections that can be transmitted skin-to-skin such as herpes and genital warts.
When latex barriers are used, oil-based lubrication can break down the structure of the latex and remove the protection it provides.