How do you prevent HIV?
There is no cure for HIV, but there are ways to prevent getting the virus.
HIV is generally passed from person-to-person through sexual (anal, vaginal, or oral) contact or by sharing needles and other drug works. HIV can be prevented through abstinence, mutual monogamy, condoms, by not sharing needles and drug works (commonly referred to as paraphernalia), and by limiting the use of substances (i.e. alcohol and other non-injecting drugs) that impair judgment.
There is currently no vaccine for HIV. Researchers have been trying to find an HIV vaccine since the virus was first identified in 1984. HIV is a very complex virus, so researchers have not been successful in creating a vaccine, but they continue to try.
Male latex condoms, placed over the penis, offer greater protection from HIV than female condoms. However, using a female condom is better than not using any form of protection at all. Condoms should be used consistently—EVERY time you have sex. Be sure not to tear the condom when opening the wrapper. Open the wrapper carefully with your hands—never use your teeth. And always use a NEW condom with every act of vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
To use a male condom correctly
To use a female condom correctly
How effective are latex condoms in the fight against HIV?
Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are highly effective in preventing sexual transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Research on the effectiveness of latex condoms in preventing heterosexual transmission is both comprehensive and conclusive. The ability of latex condoms to prevent transmission has been scientifically established. It should be noted that condom use cannot provide absolute protection against HIV. The surest way to avoid transmission of HIV is to abstain from sexual intercourse or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and you know is not infected.
Are health care workers at risk of getting HIV on the job?
The risk of health care workers being exposed to HIV on the job is very low, especially if they carefully follow universal precautions (i.e., using protective practices and personal protective equipment to prevent HIV and other blood-borne infections). It is important to remember that casual, everyday contact with an HIV-infected person does not expose health care workers or anyone else to HIV. For health care workers on the job, the main risk of HIV transmission is through accidental injuries from needles and other sharp instruments that may be contaminated with the virus; however, even this risk is small.
For more information on preventing occupational exposure to HIV, refer to the CDC fact sheet, “Occupational HIV Transmission and Prevention among Health care Workers.
Drug and Alcohol Use
There are a couple of ways that drug and alcohol use can increase a person’s risk of HIV infection. One way is that using drugs and alcohol can reduce inhibitions and possibly increase the chance of one engaging in risky behaviors that can increase the risk of HIV exposure, such as unprotected sex.
Another way is that of using intravenous drugs (i.e., “shooting up”) and sharing needles or works (cooker, syringes, etc) with an infected person increases a person’s risk of HIV infection. If you use intravenous drugs, do NOT share needles or other drug works with another person. Many communities have needle exchange programs where people who are addicted to injection drugs can exchange used needles for new needles, and many pharmacies and medical specialty shops sell disposable needles and syringes. You should never share needles and other drug works with anyone else. But, the unfortunate reality is that access to clean, new, sterile syringes is sometimes limited.
If you inject illicit drugs, or if you are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol and are interested in treatment programs and other options that can help you, talk with your doctor or health care provider, counselor, loved one, or someone else you trust about getting into a treatment program. Locate a treatment facility near you or call 800-662-HELP (800-662-4357).
Are there medications I can take that will keep me from getting HIV if I am exposed?
There may be. Promising research has shown that PrEP—Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis—may provide some protection against HIV infection. PrEP trials involve the use of HIV treatment medications in an attempt to protect high-risk uninfected individuals from HIV infection. However, the research to date has only been shown to reduce HIV infection among gay and bisexual men, and transgendered women who have sex with men, and there are no data regarding its benefit among heterosexuals or injection drug users. There are many other important aspects to PrEP and its limitations in preventing HIV. To learn more about it, please visit CDC’s page on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV Prevention.
If I think I have been exposed to HIV, what are my options?
There is a treatment regimen called Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PEP that may be useful in preventing HIV infection. However, there are some things to keep in mind about PEP.
To learn more about PEP, visit CDC’s page on Post-Exposure Prophylaxis.
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Content source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Page maintained by: Prevention Communication Branch, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention
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