It is important to know how to prevent HIV. This condition can be treated so you can live a full life and not transmit it to others. There are many ways to reduce the chances of contracting HIV.

HIV can only be passed from person to person by exchanging bodily fluids. This most frequently happens during sex and when sharing needles.

According to the United States Department of Health & Human Services, almost 14 percent of people who have HIV don’t know it, so they can pass it along to you if you engage in certain behaviors.

Knowing how to prevent HIV and implementing these practices will reduce your chances of contracting the condition.

For sexual encounters

You are vulnerable to contracting HIV if you exchange bodily fluids with another person. This includes the following that can be shared during sex:

  • semen
  • vaginal fluids
  • other substances

There are several ways to prevent the contraction and transmission of HIV through sexual encounters. Here are a few things to consider.

1. Use a barrier method during sex

Condoms provide a type of barrier method to prevent the transmission of HIV and other STIs.

Latex condoms for people with penises provide a barrier between sexual partners to avoid sharing bodily fluids. There are also condoms available for people with vaginas.

You should use condoms or other barrier methods whenever someone’s penis enters your body. You exchange fluids at any point during a sexual encounter and not just when someone ejaculates.

If you’re using a condom, applying lube over it may reduce the chance that the condom breaks or falls off. The lube should be water- or silicone-based. Also, make sure you wear the condom correctly to reduce malfunctions.

You can also use additional birth control methods to prevent pregnancies.

2. Choose your sexual partners wisely

In some cases, your chances of contracting or transmitting HIV may increase with the number of sexual partners you have.

Every one of your sexual partners has a sexual history that may involve other partners. Those partners could have transmitted HIV or other STIs to your current sexual partner.

Monogamous relationships may be safe pairings if you are sexually active. This means you and your partner will only have sex with each other.

Use condoms or other barrier methods to lower your chance of contracting or transmitting HIV.

3. Consider intimate activities that don’t involve the exchange of bodily fluids

You only have a chance of contracting HIV if you share bodily fluids with another person. There are other sexual activities you can engage in that do not involve these exchanges.

Vaginal, anal, and oral sex without barrier methods may increase your chances of contracting or transmitting HIV.

4. Test yourself regularly for HIV and other STIs

You can get regular tests for HIV and STIs to stay on top of your health as well as to reduce transmitting these conditions to others.

Getting tested along with a new sexual partner(s) can ensure that you are not transmitting HIV and STIs to each other when you begin your sexual relationship.

5. Avoid misusing drugs and alcohol

Misusing alcohol or drugs can impair your decision-making. This can lead you to engage in certain behaviors that may increase your chances of contracting or transmitting HIV, including having sex without a barrier method.

Avoid situations where you may misuse drugs and alcohol and find yourself with a higher chance of making poor choices about sexual encounters.

6. Take medications that can protect you from HIV

There are medications you can take to lower your chances of contracting HIV before and after sexual encounters.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a medication you take daily by mouth to lower your chance of contracting HIV. This may be desirable if you:

  • partner with someone living with HIV
  • are sexually active but not in a monogamous relationship
  • inject yourself with drugs with unsterilized or shared needles

There is also a medication you can take following a sexual encounter if you are concerned about contracting HIV. This is called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

You have to take the initial dose of this medication within 72 hours of your sexual encounter and then follow up with additional doses for 28 days.

For intravenous (IV) drugs or other encounters with needles

Sharing needles with other people or using unsterilized needles to take illegal or IV drugs can increase your chance of contracting HIV and other conditions like hepatitis.

Here are a few methods to lower your chance of contracting HIV if you inject needles into yourself.

7. Don’t share needles

Never share needles with another person. You can contract HIV even doing this just one time.

8. Use sterilized needles

You should only inject yourself with sterilized needles. There are helpful ways to make sure your needles are clean. Make sure your needles are:

  • new
  • from reputable sources like a pharmacies or medical suppliers
  • sanitized with bleach

There are a few basics to help you avoid contracting HIV if you have a high chance of contracting the condition. Don’t:

  • have sex without a barrier method
  • share needles
  • misuse injectable drugs
  • misuse alcohol and other drugs

You may have HIV and are concerned about transmitting it to others. There are several ways you can prevent the transmission of HIV:

  • Get treatment for your condition and take prescribed medications like antiretrovirals. These diminish the amount of the virus in your blood, which will reduce your chances of transmitting it to others. The amount of HIV in your blood may reach undetectable levels if you continue antiretroviral use. This can make sex with others safe, and the virus untransmissable.
  • Use condoms or other barrier methods when having sex.
  • Don’t misuse injectable illegal drugs or share needles.

It is important to get tested for HIV if you suspect you have been exposed to it or if you engage in behaviors that put you at a high chance of contracting the virus.

You can get free HIV tests if you are insured, or you can seek out a local clinic that provides free or low-cost testing to anyone uninsured.

Knowing your HIV status is important for several reasons. If your HIV test result is positive, it can be useful because you can:

  • begin treatment right away
  • avoid transmitting HIV
  • contact anyone who may have been exposed

There are many ways to prevent HIV, and practicing all of them will reduce your likelihood of contracting the virus. Remember that you can only contract HIV by exchanging bodily fluids with a person.

Get tested regularly if you suspect you’re exposed or have a high chance of contracting HIV. Treating HIV early can improve your outlook and reduce the chances of transmitting it to others.