How can HIV be prevented?

Because the most common ways HIV is transmitted is through anal or vaginal sex or sharing drug injection equipment with a person infected with HIV, it is important to take steps to reduce the risks associated with these. They include:

  • Know your HIV status. Everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should be tested for HIV at least once. If you are at increased risk for HIV, you should be tested for HIV at least once a year.
    • If you have HIV, you can get medical care, treatment, and supportive services to help you stay healthy and reduce your ability to transmit the virus to others.
    • If you are pregnant and find that you have HIV, treatments are available to reduce the chance that your baby will have HIV.

    Locate an HIV testing site.

  • Abstain from sexual activity or be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner.
  • Limit your number of sex partners. The fewer partners you have, the less likely you are to encounter someone who is infected with HIV or another STD.
  • Correct and consistent condom use. Latex condoms are highly effective at preventing transmission of HIV and some other sexually transmitted diseases. “Natural” or lambskin condoms do not provide sufficient protection against HIV infection.
  • Get tested and treated for STDs and insist that your partners do too.

    Locate an STD testing site.

  • Male circumcision has also been shown to reduce the risk of HIV transmission from women to men during vaginal sex.
  • Do not inject drugs. If you inject drugs, you should get counseling and treatment to stop or reduce your drug use. If you cannot stop injecting drugs, use clean needles and works when injecting.

    Locate resources on substance abuse treatment.

  • Obtain medical treatment immediately if you think you were exposed to HIV. Sometimes, HIV medications can prevent infection if they are started quickly. This is called post-exposure prophylaxis.
  • Participate in risk reduction programs. Programs exist to help people make healthy decisions, such as negotiating condom use or discussing HIV status. Your health department can refer you to programs in your area.