Birth Control and HIV
May 12, 2015
Table of Contents
- Methods That Prevent Pregnancy and Protect Against HIV
- Hormone-Based Methods That Prevent Pregnancy But Do Not Protect Against HIV
- Other Methods That Prevent Pregnancy But Do Not Protect Against HIV
- How to Choose
- The Future: Multipurpose Prevention Technologies
All women who have sex with men and have not yet completed menopause (have not yet had 12 months without any periods) or had surgery that prevents pregnancy need to make decisions about which birth control method is best for them. If you are a woman living with HIV (HIV+), it is also important to consider the possibility of passing your virus to a partner. This is true if your partner(s) is HIV+ or HIV-negative.
When both partners are HIV+, you do not need to worry about one getting infected with HIV. However, one partner could re-infect (also called super-infect) the other with a strain of HIV that is resistant to the HIV drugs being taken. Also, other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) could be passed from one partner to the other. The only existing forms of birth control that will provide protection against HIV and other STDs are abstinence (not having sex) or using condoms while having sex.
Not all HIV+ women will want to, or be able to have their partners use condoms, whether their partners are HIV+ or HIV-negative. For more information on male and female condom use, see our article on Talking with Your Partner about Condoms.
For HIV+ women who do not use condoms and do not want to get pregnant, there are a number of other choices available. These other methods of birth control offer protection against pregnancy, but do not protect against HIV or other STDs. Some health care providers suggest "dual (double) protection" -- condoms to prevent HIV transmission, and another method to prevent pregnancy.
Condoms (rubbers) are thin latex or plastic barriers. The male condom is worn on the penis. The female condom is put in the vagina or anus.
- Female and male condoms are the most effective ways to prevent many STDs (including HIV)
- If used correctly, male condoms are up to 98 percent effective at preventing pregnancy; if not always used correctly, male condoms are only 85 percent effective. If used correctly, female condoms are up to 95 percent effective at preventing pregnancy; if not always used correctly, female condoms are only 79 percent effective.
- The female condom is the only female-controlled method of birth control that also provides protection from STDs
- The female condom can be inserted several hours to immediately before sex
- Male condoms are inexpensive
- Condoms do not require a prescription
- Male condom requires cooperation of the male partner
- Male condoms may break if not put on correctly or if used with oil-based lubricants like baby oil or Vaseline. Do not use condoms with these lubricants.
- Male condoms must be put on during sex while the male partner is erect
- Female condoms can be expensive and are not available everywhere
The male condom is available in lubricated and unlubricated (dry) forms. Unlubricated condoms are often the condoms of choice for oral sex. For vaginal sex, you can use either a lubricated or unlubricated condom. For anal sex, lubricated condoms are suggested. You can choose to add lubricant (lube) any time you use a condom. Remember, however, to use only water-based lubes (like Astroglide, KY Jelly) with latex condoms. Oil-based lubricants like mineral oil, cold cream, Vaseline (petroleum jelly), and vegetable oils will damage latex and make the condom ineffective at preventing infections or pregnancy.
Condoms lubricated with the spermicide Nonoxynol-9 (N-9) are no longer recommended. They have a shorter shelf life, do not decrease pregnancy more than other lubricated condoms, and may increase HIV risk by causing irritation of the vagina or rectum.
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