HIV Prevention Measures

There is no vaccine to prevent HIV and there is no cure for AIDS. However, with foresight, self-discipline and education, HIV infection and AIDS can be prevented. By educating yourself (and your children) about HIV, how it is transmitted, and how transmission can be prevented, you may save a life.

If you are HIV negative

The following preventive measures might seem personally restrictive, but they are effective in the prevention of HIV infection:

  1. Do not have sexual vaginal intercourse, oral sex, or anal sex with people known or suspected to be infected with AIDS; multiple partners; a person who has multiple partners; or people who use intravenous (IV) drugs. Always know the HIV status of any sexual partner. Do not engage in unprotected sex unless you're absolutely certain your partner is not infected with HIV.
  2. Do not use intravenous drugs. If you do use IV drugs, do not share needles or syringes. Take advantage of needle exchange programs in your community and consider seeking help for your drug use.
  3. Avoid exposure to blood from injuries or nosebleeds where the HIV status of the bleeding person is unknown. Using protective clothing, masks and goggles may be appropriate when caring for people who are injured.
  4. The risk of HIV infection through blood transfusions or blood products is extremely low in the United States. The blood supply is well screened and is considered safe. Unfortunately, this is not always the case in other countries. If an emergency requires that you receive blood or blood products in another country, get tested for HIV as soon as you return home.
  5. HIV positive women should be counseled, before becoming pregnant, about the risk to unborn babies. Pregnant women with HIV should be made aware of medical advances that may help prevent the fetus from becoming infected. According to the 2012 Guideline issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics, mothers in the U.S. who are HIV positive should not breastfeed.1
  6. Latex condoms are highly effective in preventing HIV transmission. However, the risk of acquiring the HIV infection remains, even with the use of condoms. Always use a new latex condom. If you are allergic to latex, use a plastic (polyurethane) condom. Avoid lambskin condoms, as they do not protect you from HIV. Use only water-based lubricants and never petroleum jelly, cold cream or oils. Oil-based lubricants can weaken condoms and cause them to break. Female condoms are also effective for HIV prevention when used correctly. Do not use a male and female condom at the same time.
  7. Get tested immediately if you know or think that you have had contact with someone who has HIV. Seek medical treatment if the result is positive because early treatment may help.
  8. In July 2012 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of Truvada, an antiretroviral drug to prevent HIV infection in certain high risk individuals. Truvada is a combination of two HIV medications (tenofovir disoproxil fumarate plus emtricitabine) and can be used in high risk HIV-negative persons to protect themselves from possible HIV infection. The medication helps to prevent HIV from making a new virus as it enters in the body. The use of an antiretroviral medication to help to prevent HIV infection is known as Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). In PrEP, you take the medication daily before exposure to HIV. PrEP treatment for HIV is approved to be used in HIV-negative men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender women who have sex with men, and in heterosexual men and women. Researchers are currently evaluating PrEP’s effectiveness at preventing HIV in those who use needles for injection, but that research is not yet available. Talk with your healthcare provider about other uses, benefits and risks of PrEP.2
  9. In order to receive PrEP:

    • You must be HIV-negative but at very high risk of contracting HIV.
    • You must use other forms of HIV prevention, such as condoms; have regular HIV testing, usually every 2 to 3 months; not share needles; receive HIV-risk reduction counseling; and get screened for sexually transmitted diseases and hepatitis B.
    • You must take your medications as instructed each day for effectiveness and to prevent resistance.
    • In women, a pregnancy test may be needed at regular intervals.
    • You will need to have regular tests to evaluate how your kidneys are working.

If you are HIV positive

If you have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, the following preventive measures can help you protect others:

  1. The only way to protect your sexual partner from HIV infection is to avoid practices that expose them to infected body fluids. Always use a new latex condom for any sexual activity.
  2. If you are pregnant, seek medical treatment immediately. The HIV infection can be passed on to your baby but if treatment is received during pregnancy the risk to the baby can be reduced by as much as two-thirds. Delivery of the baby by cesarean section cuts the risk even further.
  3. Tell the people who need to know about your diagnosis. It is important to tell any previous or current partners that you are HIV positive. They will need to be tested, receive medical care and tell their own partners if they have the HIV virus. You will need to tell any pregnant woman with whom you have had sex that you are HIV positive as she may need treatment to protect her own health and that of her baby. You will need to tell your health care providers of your HIV status, not only to protect them but also to make sure that you receive the best possible medical care.
  4. If you use intravenous drugs, never share your needles and syringes with anyone else as they may contain traces of HIV infected blood.
  5. Do not donate blood or organs.
  6. Do not share personal items such as razor blades or toothbrushes. These items may also contain traces of HIV-infected blood.

See Also:

1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. Pediatrics 2012; 129; e827; originally published online February 27, 2012; Accessed February 4, 2013. http://http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/129/3/e827.full.pdf

2. CDC Fact Sheet. PrEP: A New Tool for HIV Prevention. August 2012.

Last updated: 2013-08-27 by Leigh Anderson, PharmD.

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