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HIV Prevention

	Photo of person handing out a condomToday, more tools than ever are available to prevent HIV. In addition to abstinence, limiting your number of sexual partners, never sharing needles, and using condoms the right way every time you have sex, you may be able to take advantage of newer medicines such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

Is abstinence the only 100% effective HIV prevention option?

Yes. Abstinence means not having oral, vaginal, or anal sex. An abstinent person is someone who's never had sex or someone who's had sex but has decided not to continue having sex for some period of time. Abstinence is the only 100% effective way to prevent HIV, other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and pregnancy. The longer you wait to start having oral, vaginal, or anal sex, the fewer sexual partners you are likely to have in your lifetime. Having fewer partners lowers your chances of having sex with someone who has HIV or another STD.

Learn more about how to protect yourself, and get information tailored to meet your needs from CDC’s HIV Risk Reduction Tool (BETA).

How can I prevent getting HIV from anal or vaginal sex?

Use condoms the right way every time you have sex, take medicines to prevent or treat HIV if appropriate, choose less risky sexual behaviors, get tested for other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and limit your number of sex partners. The more of these actions you take, the safer you can be.

Specifically, you can:

Anal sex is the riskiest type of sex for transmitting HIV. It’s possible for either partner—the partner inserting the penis in the anus (the top) or the partner receiving the penis (the bottom)—to get HIV, but it is much riskier for an HIV-negative partner to be the receptive partner. That’s because the lining of the rectum is thin and may allow HIV to enter the body during anal sex.

Vaginal sex also carries a risk for HIV transmission, though it is less risky than anal sex. Most women who get HIV get it from vaginal sex, but men can also get HIV from vaginal sex.

In general, there is little to no risk of getting or transmitting HIV from oral sex. Theoretically, transmission of HIV is possible if an HIV-positive man ejaculates in his partner’s mouth during oral sex. However, the risk is still very low, and much lower than with anal or vaginal sex. Factors that may increase the risk of transmitting HIV through oral sex are oral ulcers, bleeding gums, genital sores, and the presence of other STDs, which may or may not be visible. See How can I prevent getting HIV from oral sex?

Sexual activities that don’t involve contact with body fluids (semen, vaginal fluid, or blood) carry no risk of HIV transmission but may pose a risk for other STDs.

Learn more about how to protect yourself, and get information tailored to meet your needs from CDC’s HIV Risk Reduction Tool (BETA).

How can I prevent getting HIV from oral sex?

In general, there is little to no risk of getting or transmitting HIV from oral sex. Theoretically, transmission of HIV is possible if an HIV-positive man ejaculates in his partner’s mouth during oral sex. However, the risk is still very low, and much lower than with anal or vaginal sex.

Oral sex involves putting the mouth on the penis (fellatio), vagina (cunnilingus), or anus (anilingus). There’s little to no risk of getting or transmitting HIV through oral sex. Factors that may increase the risk of transmitting HIV through oral sex are oral ulcers, bleeding gums, genital sores, and the presence of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), which may or may not be visible.

While there is little to no risk of getting HIV from oral sex, using a barrier (for example, a condom, dental dam, or cut-open nonlubricated condom) can further reduce your risk of getting or transmitting HIV and protect you and your partner from some other STDs, including gonorrhea of the throat and hepatitis.

The risk is also lower if the HIV-positive partner is taking medicine to treat HIV (called antiretroviral therapy or ART), or if the HIV-negative partner is taking medicine to prevent HIV (called pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP). Both PrEP and ART need to be taken the right way every time in order to work.

Because your mouth may come into contact with feces or other body fluids during oral sex, it is important that you talk to a health care provider about your chances of getting hepatitis A and B. If you’ve never had hepatitis A or B, there are vaccines to prevent them. Your provider can help you decide if vaccination is right for you.

For more information, see Oral Sex and HIV Risk.

Learn more about how to protect yourself, and get information tailored to meet your needs from CDC’s HIV Risk Reduction Tool (BETA).

How well do condoms prevent HIV?

If you use them the right way every time you have sex, condoms are highly effective in preventing HIV infection. But it’s important to educate yourself about how to use them the right way.

Condoms can also help prevent other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) you can get through body fluids, like gonorrhea and chlamydia. However, they provide less protection against STDs spread through skin-to-skin contact, like human papillomavirus or HPV (genital warts), genital herpes, and syphilis.

There are two main types of condoms: male and female.

Male Condoms

Female Condoms

Even if you use condoms the right way every time you have sex, there’s still a chance of getting HIV. For some individuals at high risk of getting or transmitting HIV, adding other prevention methods, like taking medicines to prevent and treat HIV, can further reduce their risk (see How can I prevent getting HIV from anal or vaginal sex?).

Learn more about how to protect yourself, and get information tailored to meet your needs from CDC’s HIV Risk Reduction Tool (BETA).

Can using a lubricant help reduce my HIV risk?

Yes, because lubricants can help prevent condoms from breaking or slipping.

Water-based and silicon-based lubricants are safe to use with all condoms. Oil-based lubricants and products containing oil, such as hand lotion, Vaseline, or Crisco, should not be used with latex condoms because they can weaken the condom and cause it to break. It is safe to use any kind of lubricant with nitrile female condoms. But lubricants containing nonoxynol-9 should not be used because nonoxynol-9 irritates the lining of the vagina and anus and increases the risk of getting HIV.

Learn more about how to protect yourself, and get information tailored to meet your needs from CDC’s HIV Risk Reduction Tool (BETA).

Can male circumcision prevent HIV?

Circumcised men are less likely than uncircumcised men to get HIV from HIV-positive female partners, but circumcision doesn’t decrease their risk as much as other prevention options. There is no evidence that male circumcision decreases a woman’s risk of getting HIV, and the evidence about the benefits of circumcision among gay and bisexual men is inconclusive.

Circumcised men should take other actions, like using condoms the right way every time they have sex or taking medicine to prevent or treat HIV, to further reduce their risk of getting HIV or to protect their partners.

Learn more about how to protect yourself, and get information tailored to meet your needs from CDC’s HIV Risk Reduction Tool (BETA).

Can I take medicines to prevent getting HIV?

If you are at very high risk for HIV from sex or injecting drugs, taking HIV medicines daily, called pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP), can greatly reduce your risk of HIV infection. You can combine additional strategies with PrEP to reduce your risk even further.

Federal guidelines recommend that PrEP be considered for people who are HIV-negative and at very high risk for HIV. This includes anyone who is in an ongoing sexual relationship with an HIV-positive partner. It also includes anyone who:

  1. Is not in a mutually monogamous* relationship with a partner who recently tested HIV-negative, and
  2. Is a

PrEP is also recommended for people who’ve injected drugs in the past 6 months and have shared needles or works or been in drug treatment in the past 6 months.

If you have a partner who is HIV-positive and are considering getting pregnant, talk to your doctor about PrEP. It may be an option to help protect you and your baby.

PrEP involves daily medication and regular visits to a health care provider.

Learn more about how to protect yourself, and get information tailored to meet your needs from CDC’s HIV Risk Reduction Tool.

* Mutually monogamous means that you and your partner only have sex with each other and do not have sex outside the relationship.

Can I take medicines to prevent HIV after exposure?

Yes. Taking medicine after being potentially exposed to HIV, called post-exposure prophylaxis (or PEP), can keep you from becoming infected. But PEP must be started within 72 hours after a possible exposure.

If you think you’ve recently been exposed to HIV during sex (for example, if the condom breaks) or through sharing needles and works to prepare drugs (for example, cotton, cookers, water), talk to your health care provider or an emergency room doctor about PEP right away. The sooner you start PEP, the better; every hour counts. If you’re prescribed PEP, you’ll need to take it once or twice daily for 28 days.

Someone who is on PEP should continue to use condoms with sex partners and safe injection practices while taking PEP.

Learn more about how to protect yourself, and get information tailored to meet your needs from CDC’s HIV Risk Reduction Tool.

Can I get vaccinated to prevent HIV?

No. There is currently no vaccine that will prevent HIV infection or treat those who have it.

Learn more about how to protect yourself, and get information tailored to meet your needs from CDC’s HIV Risk Reduction Tool (BETA).

Can I use microbicides to prevent HIV?

No. Microbicides are gels, films, or suppositories that can kill or neutralize viruses and bacteria. Researchers are studying both vaginal and rectal microbicides to see if they can prevent sexual transmission of HIV, but none are currently available for use.

Learn more about how to protect yourself, and get information tailored to meet your needs from CDC’s HIV Risk Reduction Tool (BETA).

If I am living with HIV, how can I prevent passing it to others?

There are many actions you can take to lower your risk of transmitting HIV to a partner. The more actions you take, the safer you can be.

Also, encourage your partners who are HIV-negative to get tested for HIV so they are sure about their status and can take action to keep themselves healthy. See How soon after an exposure to HIV can an HIV test detect if I am infected? To find a testing site near them, call 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636), visit gettested.cdc.gov, or text their ZIP code to KNOW IT (566948). Or they can use a home testing kit.

Learn more about how to protect your partners, and get information tailored to meet your needs from CDC’s HIV Risk Reduction Tool (BETA).

How can I prevent getting HIV from drug use?

Stopping injection and other drug use can lower your chances of getting or transmitting HIV a lot. If you keep injecting drugs, use only sterile needles and works. Never share needles or works.

You are at very high risk for getting HIV if you use a needle or works after someone with HIV has used them. Also, when people are high, they’re more likely to have risky sex, which increases the chance of getting or transmitting HIV.

The best way to reduce your risk of HIV is to stop using drugs. You may need help to stop or cut down using drugs, but many resources are available. Talk with a counselor, doctor, or other health care provider about substance abuse treatment. To find a treatment center near you, check out the locator tools on SAMHSA.gov or AIDS.gov, or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

If you keep injecting drugs, here are some things you can do to lower your risk for getting HIV and other infections:

Learn more about how to protect yourself, and get information tailored to meet your needs from CDC’s HIV Risk Reduction Tool (BETA).

How can I prevent passing HIV to my baby?

If you have HIV, the most important thing you can do is to take medicines to treat HIV infection (called antiretroviral therapy or ART) the right way, every day.

If you’re pregnant, talk to your health care provider about getting tested for HIV and other ways to keep you and your child from getting HIV. Women in their third trimester should be tested again if they engage in behaviors that put them at risk for HIV.

If you are HIV-negative but you have an HIV-positive partner and are considering getting pregnant, talk to your doctor about taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to help keep you from getting HIV. Encourage your partner to take medicines to treat HIV (ART), which greatly reduces the chance that he will transmit HIV to you.

If you have HIV, take medicines to treat HIV (ART) the right way, every day. If you are treated for HIV early in your pregnancy, your risk of transmitting HIV to your baby can be 1% or less. After delivery, you can prevent transmitting HIV to your baby by avoiding breastfeeding, since breast milk contains HIV.

For more information, see CDC’s HIV Among Pregnant Women, Infants, and Children.

Learn more about how to protect yourself, and get information tailored to meet your needs from CDC’s HIV Risk Reduction Tool (BETA).

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