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
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.