An official website of the United States government

What You Should Know About Preventing HIV Infection
November 27, 2017

Stop AIDS in Africa symbol
Stop AIDS in Africa symbol
Credit: AP Images

Many YALI Network members are working to raise community awareness of HIV/AIDS prevention. Health practitioners everywhere agree on the following basic disease facts that the public must understand to prevent the spread of HIV.

How is HIV Spread?

  • The spread of HIV from person to person is called HIV transmission.
  • HIV is spread through contact with the blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, vaginal fluids, rectal fluids or breast milk of a person infected with HIV.
  • HIV is spread by having unprotected sex or by sharing drug equipment, such as needles, with someone who has HIV.
  • HIV can pass from an infected woman to her child during pregnancy, childbirth (labor and delivery), or breastfeeding. This is called mother-to-child transmission.
  • Some HIV infections have occurred after a blood transfusion or organ transplant from an HIV-infected donor. This risk has diminished with widespread screening.
  • Handshakes, hugs and friendly kisses will not transmit HIV. Objects such as toilet seats, doorknobs or dishes used by a person infected with HIV will not transmit the disease.

How to Reduce the Risk of Getting HIV

  • Get tested before you have sex. Know your partner’s HIV status and ask that he or she be tested.
  • Use a condom every time you have vaginal, anal or oral sex. Use condoms correctly.
  • Have less risky sex. Oral sex is less risky than anal or vaginal sex.
  • Limit your number of sexual partners. Get tested regularly and get treated for any sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Insist that your partners do too. Having an STI can increase your risk of becoming infected with HIV.
  • Talk to your health care provider about pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, a prevention option for people who are at high risk of getting HIV. It’s meant to be used consistently, as a pill taken every day, and to be used with other prevention options such as condoms.
  • Don’t take intravenous drugs. If you do, use only sterile injection equipment and clean water. Never share your equipment with others.

Prevention of Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission (MTCT)

  • Pregnant HIV-infected women take HIV medicines during pregnancy and childbirth to reduce the risk of passing HIV to their babies. Their newborn babies also receive HIV medicine for 6 weeks after birth. The medicine reduces the risk of infection from HIV that may have entered the baby’s body during childbirth.
  • A thorough campaign of MTCT prevention through wide distribution of HIV medicines is key to the goal of reaching an AIDS-free generation.

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)

  • PEP is the use of HIV medicine to reduce the risk of HIV infection after a possible exposure to the virus. PEP may be used after a person has unprotected sex with an infected person or after a health care worker is accidentally exposed to HIV in the workplace. To be effective, PEP must be started within three days of the possible exposure to HIV.

Have you joined #YALICares yet? Take the pledge and learn more at yali.lab.dev.getusinfo.com/health.

Information provided by AIDSinfo, a service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government.