HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a life-changing and fatal virus that affects the body’s immune system by infecting and destroying CD4+ white blood cells. Consequently, a weak immune system means the body cannot effectively ward off disease.
HIV is transmitted through bodily fluids and can be contracted through sex, drug use, and even breastfeeding. Fortunately, today there are a number of precautionary measures and medicines you can take to reduce your risk of HIV. Here is a list of known prevention methods.
6 Steps to HIV Prevention
1. Get tested.
The first step in preventing HIV exposure is to be aware not only of your own sexual history but your partner’s as well. You should both get tested for HIV before engaging in sexual intercourse.
2. Limit your number of sexual partners.
Having sexual relations with multiple partners can increase your chances of HIV infection.
3. Always practice safe sex.
Condoms should be used for anal, oral, or vaginal sex to help prevent the transmission of HIV. When used correctly, condoms are 98-99% effective in preventing the spread of HIV.
4. Avoid injecting drugs.
However, if you do inject drugs, it is important to use sterile equipment. Never share needs with others—this puts you at a higher risk for HIV.
5. Bottle feed instead of breastfeeding.
Health professionals recommend the feeding of infants with formula rather than breastfeed since HIV-positive mothers can transmit HIV to the baby through breast milk.
6. Take medicine as prescribed by a doctor.
Fixed-dose combination antiretroviral drugs are a combination of two medications that work together to suppress and slow down HIV in those already infected. The CDC now recommends the use of these drugs by HIV-negative individuals to prevent HIV contraction. PrEP, (pre-exposure prophylaxis), is the practice of using antiretroviral drugs to reduce the risk of or prevent HIV infection. Truvada is one such drug and is the subject of most PrEP research. Adults and teenagers over the age of twelve who are HIV-negative but are at high risk for contracting the infection should seek a doctor's prescription for PrEP medication. As a result, Truvada reduces the risk of HIV transmission through sex by more than 90% and by more than 70% for people who inject drugs with consistent use.
HIV Risk Factors
- A sexual partner with HIV
- Sharing drug paraphernalia
- A non-monogamous relationship with a partner who doesn't practice safe sex
- A relationship with a partner who is at a high risk of contracting HIV
Lastly, while there is no cure for HIV, you can prevent contraction by practicing these methods and taking them seriously. If you have concerns about your HIV risk, consult with a doctor and take and HIV test.