Ways to Prevent Infection

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Abstain From Sexual Activity

Until better prevention methods are available, the only way to ensure freedom from the risk of HIV infection, for many people, is to forgo sex. In some populations in low- and middle-income countries, the median number of sexual partners newly-diagnosed women have had is one, and getting married is an HIV risk factor. Condoms are unavailable to many people and in many locations. In any case, condoms cannot be used by couples trying to conceive and their use within marriage and long-term primary relationships is the exception rather than the rule.

Get Tested If You're Pregnant

Babies can get STDs too. If a mother has an STD, she could pass it to her baby:

  • While pregnant
  • During childbirth
  • When breastfeeding (mainly HIV)

Many women who have an STD may not even know it. They may not show any signs. Getting tested early for HIV and other STDs is the only way to know for sure if you’re positive.

Follow All Instructions

All pregnant women should be screened for HIV as early as possible during each pregnancy. If you test positive for an STD, a health-care provider can create a plan to help you and your baby stay healthy. This may include:

  • Medication to fight the STD and prevent it from spreading to your baby
  • A planned Cesarean birth (when appropriate)
  • Avoid breastfeeding

Resource:

Protect Yourself With Condoms

If you do have sex, always protect yourself with a condom or dental dam. For condoms to help protect you and your partner(s), you must use them consistently and correctly every time you have sex. Condoms aren't 100% effective. Some STDs can be spread by contact with infected areas not covered by a condom.

  • Read and follow package directions.
  • Make sure the label says the condom helps protect against HIV and other STDs.
  • Check the expiration date.
  • Put the condom on before any anal, oral, or vaginal contact.
  • Use a new condom for each act of anal, oral, or vaginal sex.
  • Use a water-based lubricant for anal and vaginal sex. Never use latex condoms with oil-based products, such as petroleum jelly, lotions or vaginal products that have oil.

Take PrEP Medicine

  • PrEP, or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, is a single pill taken once daily to prevent HIV infection in HIV-negative people who are at risk for it.
  • PrEP is taken before coming into contact with HIV and used along with other prevention methods, such as condoms.
  • PrEP must be prescribed by a health provider.
  • The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Truvada for PrEP in July 2012 for adults at high risk for sexual transmission of HIV.
  • PrEP differs from Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PEP. PEP means taking medicines after you were exposed to a virus or bacteria. When a person takes PEP to prevent HIV, s/he takes medicines for about a month after a high-risk exposure.

You should not use PrEP if you:

  • Don’t know your HIV status.
  • Are HIV-positive (Truvada is not a complete regimen for people with HIV).
  • Have symptoms of acute HIV infection (symptoms similar to the flu).
  • Don’t know whether you have hepatitis B or have been successfully vaccinated for it.
  • Can’t find a medical professional or clinic to provide regular HIV and STD testing and prevention counseling along with Truvada.
  • Don’t think you can take it every day.
  • Just plan to take it from time to time such as over a weekend of partying.
  • Have kidney disease or reduced kidney health.

Download the 2017 PrEP Toolkit

Don't Share Needles and Other Drug Paraphernalia

Intravenous (IV) drug users who share unclean needles are at great risk of being infected with HIV. Sharing unclean needles can place another person's blood right into your body, even if the amount is so small that you can't see it on the needle. An IV drug user who has never shared needles will not get HIV from needles. It's the exchange of blood that causes transmission.