It is also referred to as safer sex or protected sex, while unsafe or unprotected sex is sexual activity engaged in without precautions, especially forgoing condom use.
Safe sex practices became more prominent in the late 1980s as a result of the AIDS epidemic.The term was related with the need to develop educational programs for the group considered at risk, homosexual men.A year later, the same term appeared in an article in The New York Times.This article emphasized that most specialists advised their AIDS patients to practice safe sex.Promoting safe sex is now one of the aims of sex education.Safe sex is regarded as a harm reduction strategy aimed at reducing risks.
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.
The term safer sex in Canada and the United States has gained greater use by health workers, reflecting that risk of transmission of sexually transmitted infections in various sexual activities is a continuum.
The term safe sex is still in common use in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
Although safe sex is used by individuals to refer to protection against both pregnancy and HIV/AIDS or other STI transmissions, the term was born in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
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.