With Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) becoming rampant and prevalent around the world, different health institutions and organizations have developed and disseminated various information on how to prevent spread and acquisition of HIV. We’ve listed down a list of informative prevention methods below:

General Methods of Prevention of Acquisition of HIV

Abstinence

Avoidance of any sexual activities is the most effective (100%) method of preventing HIV. If you think you’re at risk of having HIV or by personal choice you want to wait before being sexually committed - abstinence will surely prevent a person from getting HIV. The most common mode of transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (e.g. chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea) is through sexual activity so being abstinent will surely prevent any person from acquiring such diseases.

Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)

If you have engaged in any activity - sexual activity or sharing of medical paraphernalia that might have exposed you to the virus, you can reach out to the nearest medical facility, ideally between 24-72 hours, to stop being fully infected by HIV. This medication is en emergency HIV medicine that if administered correctly can prevent a person from being infected with HIV.

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)

This is a prevention strategy aimed at individuals who are at high risk of acquiring HIV. This method requires administering medicine to be taken daily. This preventive approach is recommended to people who are at high risk of acquiring HIV such as those who are:

  1. Having sexual activities especially anal and vaginal sex
  2. Having sexual activities without using condoms
  3. Having sexual activities with a partner who is HIV-positive or has multiple partners
  4. Sharing medical equipment with someone who is HIV-positive

Avoid Sharing of Needles/Syringe

Stop sharing equipment (e.g. needles and syringes) with other people - especially if you live with an HIV-positive person to conduct medical procedures that require the usage of any equipment that is exposed to bodily fluids. If any of these procedures are done in a public or shared facility - make sure that the needles and syringes are new and sterile.

Blood Screening If You’re a Blood Recipient

Although it happens rarely; if you are going to receive blood donation or any blood component. Most hospitals do screening on this but make sure to get firsthand information and confirmation that your donor has been screened properly for any blood-transmitted diseases.

Limit Your Number of Sexual Partners/Activity

If abstinence and usage of condoms are not feasible, then move to limit your sexual activities or sexual partners. Studies show that

  1. There is a higher risk of acquiring HIV through vaginal sex and anal sex versus oral sex.
  2. Women have a higher risk of acquiring HIV from men during vaginal sex than men acquiring HIV from women.
  3. Men have a higher chance of acquiring HIV if they engage in anal sex with men.
  4. Having a monogamous sexual relationship - especially if you are both HIV-negative decreases the risk of getting HIV significantly.

Methods of Prevention of Spread of HIV

Practicing Safe Sex

Usage of latex condoms, female condoms, and dental dams during sexual activities decreases the risk of spreading HIV and ensures that your partner is protected if you are HIV-positive. Condoms help in preventing your partner from being exposed to your own bodily fluids (e.g. semen and pre-cum). Although this is not a 100% effective method as condoms may have breakage, this is a good practice to be followed as this also avoids transmission of other sexually transmitted diseases. This prevention method is also applicable in the prevention of acquisition of HIV.

Antiretroviral Drugs/Therapy (ART)

If you are diagnosed as HIV-positive, treatment should start right away to prevent further damage of the virus to your immune system. The treatment should decrease the viral load in your body up to a low level of viral load wherein you are less likely to transmit HIV to another person. Taking and following proper HIV treatment such as ART helps not only the person with HIV but their sexual partners and their community as well.

Regular Screening

Once diagnosed with HIV and you have undergone treatment if done properly, your viral load becomes so low that it becomes undetectable (but not gone from your body). Having HIV becoming undetectable indicates that your treatment is working and to monitor this you have to have regular screening of your viral load and CD4 count as well as check for the presence of antibodies for HIV in your blood. Regular screening not only serves as monitoring for your condition but also helps reassure your partner that they have a lower chance of being infected.

Engage in Less Risky Behaviors

Having HIV changes people and this includes their behaviors or response to sexual activities. If you are HIV-positive, avoid activities that might expose people from the virus within your body. This can be done by:

  1. Commit to treatment and monitor your status regularly.
  2. Abstain from sex if possible.
  3. For women, use condoms with men who are HIV positive.
  4. For men, avoid engaging in anal sex with other men.

Invest In Building A Relationship with Your General Physician or Doctor

HIV is a lifelong condition that will need to be dealt with always so it is important to have a solid relationship with your general physician - the doctor will have the best medical opinion as to what is the best option for you to handle your condition. Your general physician will also assess and warn you for any activities that will endanger or complicate your condition if you engage in any activities.

Mark Riegel, MD
Mark Riegel, MD
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