Sexual activity is the most likely way to become infected with
HIV. People infected with HIV may not look sick. There is no way to tell if your partner has HIV without having been tested. Take precautions when engaging in intercourse or any other sexual act that results in an exchange of body fluids.
Suggestions to lower your risk include:
- Abstain from sex.
Use a latex
and water-based lubricants.
- Limit your number of sexual partners.
- Find out the HIV status and HIV risk factors of potential sexual partners.
Find out if potential sexual partners have had any
sexually transmitted diseases, since these are closely linked to an increased risk for HIV.
- Avoid having sexual relationships with people who are HIV-positive or use injected drugs.
In addition, being
may also reduce the risk of HIV.
Using a needle or syringe contaminated with HIV-infected blood can cause you to become infected. Do not share needles with anyone.
Remember that people may not even be aware that they have HIV.
If you are at high risk, talk to your doctor about taking medication to reduce your risk of infection. You may be considered high risk if you:
- Inject IV drugs and share injection equipment
- Have a sexual partner who is HIV positive
Also, if you have a known exposure to HIV, medications may be given to decrease your risk of getting the infection.
HIV is transmitted through infected blood and body fluids. When caring for patients:
- Wear appropriate gloves and facial masks during all procedures or when handling bodily fluids.
- Carefully handle and properly dispose of needles.
- Carefully follow universal precautions.
- Cover all cuts and sores (yours and the HIV-infected person's) with bandages.
Blood products are screened for HIV, but there is still a small risk because tests cannot detect HIV immediately after transmission. To reduce your risk of contracting HIV through blood products, consider donating your own blood for elective surgical procedures.
To prevent spreading HIV to others if you are HIV infected:
- Abstain from sex.
- If you do have sex, use a male latex condom. This includes any sexual act that results in the exchange of bodily fluids.
- If you are prescribed medicines, be sure that you are taking them.
- Inform former or potential sexual partners.
- Do not donate blood or organs.
- Ask your doctor about contraception.
- If you do wish to become pregnant, talk to your doctor. There are ways to lower your baby's risk of being born infected with HIV.
- If you have a baby, do not breastfeed until you have discussed this with your doctor.
HIV/AIDS. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease website. Available at:
http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/HIVAIDS/Understanding/Pages/whatAreHIVAIDS.aspx. Accessed May 15, 2013.
HIV/AIDS. Center for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/index.html. Accessed May 15, 2013.
A guide to primary care of people with HIV/AIDS. National Institute of Health and Human Services website. Available at:
http://hab.hrsa.gov/deliverhivaidscare/files/primary2004ed.pdf. Accessed May 15, 2013.
HIV and AIDS. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at:
http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/hiv-and-aids.html. Updated December 2010. Accessed May 15, 2013.
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http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: Auvert B, Taljaard D, Lagard E, Sobngwi-Tambekou J, Sitta R, Puren A. Randomized, controlled intervention trial of male circumcision for reduction of HIV infection risk: the ANRS 1265 Trial.
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Bailey RC, Moses S, Parker CB, et al. Male circumcision for HIV prevention in young men in Kisumu, Kenya: a randomised controlled trial.
2007 Feb 24;369:643-656.
Gray RH, Kigozi G, Serwadda D, et al. Male circumcision for HIV prevention in men in Rakai, Uganda: a randomised trial.
2007 Feb 24;369:657-666.
6/11/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.dynamicmedical.com/what.php: Del Romero J, Castilla J, Hernando V, Rodríguez C, García S. Combined antiretroviral treatment and heterosexual transmission of HIV-1: cross sectional and prospective cohort study.
6/24/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.dynamicmedical.com/what.php: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Update to interim guidance for preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for the prevention of HIV infection: PrEP for injecting drug users.
MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2013 June 14;62(23):463.
Last reviewed June 2013 by Michael K. Mansour, MD, PhD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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