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Also known in personal ads and internet profiles as:

  • bare
  • bb
  • raw
  • breeding

Hanky code

Dark blue with white spots (the colour for fucking, with the spots meaning cum).

What do you want to know?

Choose from:

What is barebacking?

There’s no agreement about what barebacking means. Depending on who you ask it can be:

  • when men make a conscious decision to fuck without condoms
  • any unprotected fucking, even when it’s an accident or later regretted
  • unprotected fucking only between men assumed to have HIV
  • any unprotected fucking, including between men who don’t know their HIV status, between two HIV negative men and/or within relationships.

Some men describe themselves as barebackers as part of an identity they’re proud of.

Here we’ll use barebacking to mean any fucking without condoms, regardless of who’s doing it or in which situation.

The term ‘barebacking’ took off in the mid 90s. Now there are bareback parties, web sites and porn, as well as bareback-related words. The term may be new but it describes what nearly all gay and bisexual men did until HIV appeared and made condoms lifesavers. Now even straights use the word for unprotected sex between men and women.

How common is barebacking?

There was never a time when all gay and bisexual men used condoms. There’s always been a fairly large minority who don’t use them much or at all, although surveys show most of us use them most of the time.

The Gay Men’s Sex Survey shows in the UK around nine out of 10 men who have anal sex use condoms some or all of the time*. But it also shows around half of us had anal sex without a condom at least once in the last six months.** Much of this is men in couples not using condoms with each other.

Most of the rest are men barebacking with guys they know (or at least believe) have the same HIV status as themselves, either both HIV positive or both negative. For this reason they don’t believe there’s a risk of HIV being passed on, although they may be wrong to assume that. We often make inaccurate assumptions about our or his HIV status. Only a small minority report barebacking with men whose HIV status they know is different to their own.***

What’s the attraction?

Each of us has our reasons why we might bareback (or think about it). Here are some:

  • It just feels better, or closer.
  • I think we both must have the same HIV status so don’t see any risk.
  • I’ve already got HIV so see no point in condoms, and don’t worry about picking up anything else.
  • I’m on HIV drugs with an undetectable viral load, so there’s little chance I’ll pass on HIV.
  • Treatments mean HIV’s not the threat it was.
  • Condoms get in the way and are hard to use.
  • I live for now. I’m not into staying safe or thinking much about what’ll happen long term.
  • I feel I’ll get HIV sooner or later anyway. Once I’m HIV positive I can stop worrying about getting it.
  • My boyfriend has HIV. If I get it, that might bring us closer.
  • Men with HIV seem like a gang – one I want to join.
  • I’m more likely to bareback if I’m not feeling good about myself, or am high or drunk.

Some of us think ‘I’ll get away with it – what I do isn’t high risk’, meaning that we pull out before coming, bareback when someone has low or ‘undetectable’ viral load, or are top if HIV negative or bottom if HIV positive.

Years of being expected to use condoms has made not using them a taboo for some of us. Breaking taboos can have a strong erotic charge. Some of us leave this thrill for porn or fantasy; often men interested in barebacking, especially online, seem unwilling to do it in reality. Others act on it.

*Gay Men’s Sex Survey 2006, Sigma Research; 86% of men who had anal sex in the previous 12 months had used a condom at least once

**Gay Men’s Sex Survey 2010, Sigma Research; 49% of men mandid not use a condom the last time they had sex with a male partner.

*** Gay Men’s Sex Survey 2008, Sigma Research; 3.5% of men whose last test was negative report unprotected anal sex with someone who they knew had HIV. Of men diagnosed with HIV 15.6% reported unprotected anal sex with someone they knew was HIV negative.

Barebacking words

Here are some words or phrases you might come across:

To breed

To come inside someone’s arse.

To poz up/to seed

To infect someone with HIV.


A man who takes a lot of cum in his arse or mouth, from one or more men.

Charged cum/seed

The semen of a man with HIV.

Bareback party

Group sex where condoms aren’t used. Possibly for men who all know they have HIV; possibly for men who all know or claim to be HIV negative; maybe a mixed HIV status group where there’s a chance HIV is passed on.

Bug chaser/bug chasing

When a man who knows/thinks/claims to be HIV negative gets sexually excited by the thought of unprotected sex with men with HIV (and maybe getting infected himself).

Gift giver/gift giving

When a man with HIV claims to be willing to pass on HIV (the gift or bug) through unprotected sex to a man who says he wants to become HIV positive.

Men claiming to be bug chasers and gift givers might just be fantasising, with no interest in doing it for real. Attempts to find men who claim online to be into this nearly always get nowhere – they seem unwilling to follow through in reality.

Undetectable viral load (V/L)

HIV drugs dramatically lower the amount of HIV in someone’s blood and cum, meaning much less risk of passing on HIV. If tests show the amount of HIV in a person’s blood – their ‘viral load’ – has been at ‘undetectable’ levels for over six months (and this person is free from sexually transmitted infections) then the risk of infecting others is extremely low.

Last review: 25/09/2014
Next review: 31/09/2017