HIV does not discriminate-anyone can become infected. But everyone has the power to prevent becoming infected. If you are HIV negative, there are many ways you can stay negative:
1. Know Your Status.
Everyone should know his or her HIV status. If you are at risk for contracting and spreading HIV (that’s everyone who is sexually active), you should be tested at least once a year.
2. Don’t have sex.
The surest way to stay negative is to abstain from sex.
3. Limit your number of sexual partners.
The safest way to be sexually active is to be in a long-term, mutually monogamous sexual relationship. If you are having sex with multiple partners, keep it a minimum. The fewer partners you have, the less likely you are to encounter someone with HIV.
4. Always practice Safe Sex.
Use male and/or female condoms correctly and consistently for vaginal, anal, and oral sex to prevent contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Contraceptives like birth control, intrauterine devices (IUDs), and spermicide do NOT protect you from HIV. Always use a condom, and use it properly.
5. Do not inject drugs.
Needle sharing has been responsible for more than 36% of new HIV cases in the United States since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. Injection drug users (IDUs) who get HIV from sharing needles can also spread the virus by having unprotected sex. Furthermore, women who are IDUs or who have unprotected sex with IDUs can spread the virus to their babies.
If you use needles to inject drugs, always use new, clean needles. Do not have unprotected sex with IDUs.
6. Be mindful when using drugs and alcohol.
Drugs and alcohol can lead to carelessness and unsafe sex. Limit your intake of drugs and alcohol to avoid making poor decisions. It only takes one time.
Other preventive measures:
Mother to child prevention
If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, it is important to know your status so you don’t spread the virus to your baby. If you are pregnant and HIV positive, seek medical care immediately because treatments exist to help prevent your baby from contracting HIV. If you are HIV positive, do not breastfeed your baby, as HIV spreads through breast milk.
PrEP and PEP
Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is a month-long antiretroviral drug treatment designed to prevent the virus from establishing itself in your body. It must be taken within 72 hours of exposure. PEP is usually associated with health workers who are accidentally exposed to infected blood, victims of sexual assault, and for those who experience condom breakage.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a similar treatment in which antiretroviral drugs are taken before possible exposure to HIV to reduce the risk of infection. People who could benefit from PrEP include men who have sex with men (MSMs), female partners of MSMs, and injection drug users (IDUs).
PEP and PrEP are very new breakthroughs in HIV research. While neither treatment is guaranteed to work, evidence from various studies in animals and humans suggests that they might be effective in reducing the risk of HIV infection. Consult your local doctor or clinic to see if you are eligible to receive PEP or PrEP.