HIV Prevention

The Basics of HIV Prevention - How to Practice Safe Sex & Avoid Contracting the HIV Virus

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The Impor­tance of Under­stand­ing HIV Prevention

Though you don’t need to know exact­ly how HIV works in the body, it is impor­tant to edu­cate your­self. Learn the risks, how this dras­tic dis­ease is spread, and how to pro­tect your­self from transmission.

Spread via sex­u­al flu­ids, infect­ed blood, or infect­ed breast milk, HIV is no longer some unknown hor­ror to keep you awake at night. Though the dis­ease was a mys­tery back in the 80’s and ear­ly 90’s, there is more infor­ma­tion avail­able today than one could ever want. Any des­ig­nat­ed physi­cian at a health care clin­ic or hos­pi­tal will be able to offer plen­ty of advice and thor­ough expla­na­tions. Thanks to today’s eas­i­ly accessed inter­net, all the knowl­edge a per­son could ever want is also avail­able at their fingertips.

Con­sid­er Abstinence

Absti­nence is the only way to guar­an­tee 100% you don’t con­tract a sex­u­al­ly trans­mit­ted disease/​infection via sex. A per­son who is absti­nent has either nev­er had sex or has made the deci­sion not to have sex for an extend­ed peri­od of time, usu­al­ly last­ing sev­er­al years. Lim­it­ing your sex­u­al part­ners will effec­tive­ly decrease the chances of com­ing into con­tact with an infect­ed individual.

Prac­tice Safe Sex

When most peo­ple think of safe sex’, con­doms come to mind. Con­doms are high­ly effec­tive against HIV trans­mis­sion when used the right way. They are also effec­tive against many oth­er STDs trans­mit­ted via bod­i­ly flu­ids, such as gon­or­rhea or chlamy­dia. How­ev­er, con­doms are less effec­tive against STDs spread via skin to skin con­tact, like gen­i­tal warts, her­pes or syphilis.

  • Lubri­cants can help pre­vent the already minis­cule risk a con­dom will break or slip. 
  • Accord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol, cir­cum­cised men are less like­ly to con­tract HIV from infect­ed female part­ners, though this shouldn’t be a sole tech­nique for prevention. 
  • For those in extreme­ly high risk sit­u­a­tions, med­ica­tions called post-expo­sure pro­phy­lax­is can be tak­en with­in 72 hours after expo­sure to help pre­vent infection. 
  • Drink­ing alco­hol or using cer­tain drugs will dras­ti­cal­ly increase the chances you’ll par­tic­i­pate in risky sex­u­al behavior. 
  • Douch­ing for women after inter­course can actu­al­ly wors­en the prob­lem, spread­ing an exist­ing infec­tion fur­ther into the repro­duc­tive tract. 
  • Though diaphragms (cap worn by the woman to cov­er the cervix) pro­tect against preg­nan­cy, they don’t help much against STDs.

Male Con­doms

It’s vital­ly impor­tant to wear a con­dom every time you have sex, anal as well as vagi­nal. Though there has nev­er been a doc­u­ment­ed case of HIV being spread via sali­va, you can still con­tract the dis­ease when hav­ing oral sex if the part­ner has bleed­ing sores in their mouth. Always use a con­dom made from latex or polyurethane, not nat­ur­al materials.

  • Always make sure you use a new con­dom every time you have sex. 
  • Avoid oil based lubri­cants with con­doms, only using those that are water based (ex. K-Y jel­ly) to avoid tearing.

Female Con­doms

Con­sist­ing of a thin pouch made of a latex like mate­r­i­al called nitrile, can also be worn by the woman to help pre­vent both STDs and preg­nan­cy. Female con­doms are pre-lubri­cat­ed, designed to fit all sizes, and fit inside the vagi­na. Female con­doms can also fit inside the anus.

Den­tal Dam

Den­tal Dams are either latex or polyurethane sheets meant to act as a bar­ri­er between the mouth and either vagi­na or anus dur­ing oral sex. Though HIV can­not be spread by way of sali­va, an infect­ed indi­vid­ual with bleed­ing or open sores in their mouth can still con­tract the dis­ease, mak­ing den­tal dams important. 

PrEP (Pre-Expo­sure Prophylaxis)

A pill devel­oped for high risk indi­vid­u­als, PrEP was specif­i­cal­ly designed to pre­vent the HIV virus from infect­ing an indi­vid­ual per­ma­nent­ly. PrEP con­tains two med­ica­tions that are often used in com­bi­na­tion with oth­er HIV fight­ing med­ica­tions to cre­ate a pow­er­ful HIV pre­ven­tion technique.

When used on a con­sis­tent basis, PrEP has been shown to be 92% effec­tive at reduc­ing the risk for HIV in high risk indi­vid­u­als. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it is far less effec­tive when not used consistently.

Learn Your Partner’s History

Know­ing your partner’s his­to­ry can get you that much clos­er to com­plete safe­ty. Peo­ple who know their part­ners to this lev­el usu­al­ly are in a com­mit­ted rela­tion­ship, and par­tic­i­pate in far less risky behav­ior. Still, the only way to be as sure as pos­si­ble is to request a part­ner be tested.

Nev­er Share Nee­dles for Any Rea­son, & Nev­er Use Non-ster­ile Needles

Not only can ille­gal drug use low­er inhi­bi­tions and effect deci­sion mak­ing, it affects your health and has been proven to increase chances of con­tract­ing HIV. The virus can eas­i­ly be trans­mit­ted via non ster­ile nee­dles, from a HIV pos­i­tive patient to a healthy one. 

HIV Pre­ven­tion for Preg­nant Women

There is a sig­nif­i­cant risk HIV pos­i­tive moth­ers will pass their infec­tion on dur­ing preg­nan­cy, child­birth, and espe­cial­ly tra­di­tion­al vagi­nal child­birth. For this rea­son, doc­tors might rec­om­mend a Cesare­an sec­tion to decrease the risk of transmission.

By tak­ing rec­om­mend­ed med­ica­tions pre­scribed by a physi­cian, the risk for trans­mis­sion can be great­ly reduced. The infant will begin tak­ing med­ica­tions 4 – 6 weeks after the birth.

In some cir­cum­stances, preg­nant women with HIV might not know they’ve been infect­ed. For this rea­son, it’s impor­tant all women either preg­nant or plan­ning on preg­nan­cy receive test­ing as quick­ly as possible.

  • The HIV virus can be trans­mit­ted via breast milk dur­ing breastfeeding 
  • Few babies are born in the Unit­ed States with HIV, thanks to ear­ly care and testing.
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