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. 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 breast feeding. 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.
- 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.
- Limit your number of sexual partners. Having sexual relations with multiple partners can increase your chances of HIV infection.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bottle feed instead of breast feed. If you are an HIV-positive mother, it is recommended to formula feed your infant rather than breast feed, since HIV can be transmitted from mother to baby through breast milk.
- Take medicine as prescribed by a doctor. PrEP, (pre-exposure prophylaxs), is the practice of using antiretroviral drugs as a prevention method to reduce the risk of HIV infection. Truvada is a drug that has been used for PrEP over the last ten years. The drug is made up of a combination of two medicines that work together to suppress and slow down HIV in those already infected. But now, Truvada can also be used for adults and teenagers over the age of twelve who are HIV negative but are at high risk for contracting it. When used consistently, Truvada reduces the risk of HIV transmission through sex by more than 90%, and by more than 70% for people who inject drugs.
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
HIV is not curable, but it is preventable, if these methods are practiced and taken seriously. If you are concerned about your risk for HIV, consult with a doctor and get tested.