How can I prevent HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) transmission?

You can do a number of things to help prevent human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission. Here is a list:
  • Always use a condom (male or female) from start to finish during any type of sex (vaginal, anal and oral). Use latex or polyurethane condoms, not "natural" condoms.
  • Use only water-based lubricants with latex condoms. You can use non-water-based lubricants with polyurethane condoms. Do not use oil-based lubricants such as petroleum jelly or vegetable shortening.
  • If you use a spermicide with a condom, use the spermicide in the vagina according to the instructions. Spermicides have not been shown to protect against HIV.
  • Avoid contraceptives containing the spermicide nonoxynol-9. Over-the-counter contraceptives that contain the spermicide nonoxynol-9, such as foams, creams and gels, do not protect against HIV infection or other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). In fact, vaginal contraceptives containing nonoxynol-9 can promote vaginal irritation, which may increase your risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Don't do anything that could tear the skin or moist lining of the genitals, anus or mouth and cause bleeding. For instance, trauma to the mouth caused by rough kissing could lead to an exchange of blood.
  • Avoid alcohol and illicit drugs. Alcohol and drugs can impair your immune system and your judgment. If you use drugs, do not share needles, syringes or cookers.
  • Do not share personal items such as toothbrushes, razors and devices used during sex that may be contaminated with blood, semen or vaginal fluids.
  • Seek early diagnosis and treatment if you have any symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases. Other sexually transmitted diseases may increase your risk of HIV infection.
  • Realize that you cannot tell by looking who is HIV-infected. In fact, a person can be infected and go years without any symptoms. During this time, they are still infectious.
One approach to HIV prevention that is gaining support is called the ABC approach, in which A stands for abstinence or delay of sexual activity, B for being faithful and C for condom use.

For those already infected, combinations of antiviral drugs may reduce the ability to transmit the virus to a partner, with research finding that the drugs reduce the amount of virus in bodily secretions. Until the impact of treatment on transmission has been determined by large studies, however, this should not be considered a form of prevention.
Preventing human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is basically the same as preventing other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). You should avoid high-risk intercourse, meaning sex with multiple partners, sex with people who have had multiple partners, or any activity that involves exchange or sharing of bodily fluids. Using barrier methods such as condoms will also reduce your risk. You and your partner should have honest and open communication about sexual history and past STDs. Even though HIV is very unlikely to be transmitted by saliva, there are other activities that can spread HIV such as tattooing, sharing needles to inject things like drugs, or body piercing, especially if proper precautions are not taken to sterilize equipment.

Thank you for this excellent question. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is spread through blood and body fluids and transmitted in specific ways listed in no particular order. Sharing of needles with an intravenous drug user, can cause HIV. Unprotected sex can also cause HIV. Transmission from an HIV positive mother to baby can cause HIV. Healthcare workers who do not wear gloves and are in contact with blood or body fluids can get HIV.

There is not cure to HIV, so prevention is key. Wear condoms, do not share needles, wear gloves (when necessary), and stay safe. A safe, educated consumer can remain healthy.

Jill A. Grimes, MD
Family Medicine
Here's how you can avoid HIV:
• Abstinence from IV drug use or sharing needles and from vaginal, anal, and oral sex will prevent the transmission of HIV.
• Proper use of condoms decreases transmission of HIV.
• Use fresh condoms with each partner if sharing sex toys, or preferably, do not share sex toys.
• If you are in the healthcare profession, take extra care to avoid contaminated needle sticks (including but not limited to wearing gloves and not recapping needles).
• Limit sexual intimacy to a monogamous relationship in which both parties have tested negative for HIV at least six months after their last sexual contact (or after their other high-risk behavior, such as sharing needles).
Seductive Delusions: How Everyday People Catch STDs

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Seductive Delusions: How Everyday People Catch STDs

Anyone can catch a sexually transmitted disease. STDs are widespread in all walks of life, regardless of gender, race, social status, or education. Seduced into complacency by the notion that "it...

Continue Learning about HIV and AIDS



HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, slowly destroys the body’s immune system and causes AIDS if not treated. It can be spread through unprotected sex and sexual contact, contaminated blood transfusions, contaminated needles and ...

syringes, and through breastfeeding or transferred at birth from a mother to her child.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.