HIV/AIDS is transmitted through three main routes: sexual contact, exposure to infected bodily fluids, and from mother to fetus or infant. Although HIV cannot always be prevented, the risks can be minimized by addressing these three sources. The first and foremost means of prevention of any preventable disease is education.

Sexual Contact

The main source of transmission for HIV is through sexual relations involving a person infected with the virus. The risk of being exposed to the virus can be greatly reduced by the use of condoms. Besides abstinence from sexual activity, condoms are the single most effective mode of HIV prevention. The most reliable form is the male latex condom. Using an oil-based lubricant dissolves the latex, making the condoms porous, so it is recommended that water-based lubricants should be used in conjunction with latex condoms. Female condoms may be made from polyurethane, nitrile, or latex, and are also successful in the prevention of HIV. Studies have also shown that male circumcision reduces the risk of HIV infection among males.

Bodily Fluid Exposure

Exposure to contaminated blood can spread the HIV virus. The use of intravenous drugs poses a great risk for exposure. Recreational drug users can help prevent HIV by using clean needles every time they inject drugs. Healthcare workers are also at risk for exposure to contaminated blood. They should wear protective gear such as gloves, masks, eyewear, and aprons to prevent contact. Frequent washing of the hands is also important in reducing the chance of infection.

Mother to Child

Drug regimens and use of Caesarian section for delivery are effective at reducing the rate of HIV transmission from mother to child during and after pregnancy. Breastfeeding is the easiest way to transmit the disease, so mothers should refrain from breastfeeding, and utilize replacement feeding. If you have HIV, it is important that you discuss this with your obstetrician so you can best protect the baby from contracting disease.