The Basics of HIV Prevention
June 4, 2018
How Is HIV Spread?
The person-to-person spread of HIV is called HIV transmission. HIV is transmitted (spread) only in certain body fluids from a person who has HIV:
HIV transmission is only possible if these fluids come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or are directly injected into the bloodstream (from a needle or syringe). Mucous membranes are found inside the rectum, the vagina, the opening of the penis, and the mouth.
In the United States, HIV is spread mainly by:
HIV can also spread from a woman with HIV to her child during pregnancy, childbirth (also called labor and delivery), or breastfeeding. This spread of HIV is called mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
In the past, some people were infected with HIV after receiving a blood transfusion or organ or tissue transplant from a donor with HIV. Today, this risk is very low because donated blood, organs, and tissues are carefully tested in the United States.
You can't get HIV from casual contact with a person who has HIV, for example from a handshake, a hug, or a closed-mouth kiss. And you can't get HIV from contact with objects such as toilet seats, doorknobs, or dishes used by a person who has HIV. Use the AIDSinfo You Can Safely Share ... With Someone With HIV infographic to spread this message.
How Can I Reduce My Risk of Getting HIV?
Anyone can get HIV, but you can take steps to protect yourself from HIV infection.
I Am HIV Positive but My Partner Is HIV Negative. How Can I Protect My Partner From HIV?
Take HIV medicines daily. Treatment with HIV medicines (called antiretroviral therapy or ART) helps people with HIV live longer, healthier lives. ART can't cure HIV infection, but it can reduce the amount of HIV in the body (also called the viral load). Having less HIV in your body will reduce your risk of transmitting HIV to your partner.
However, even someone who is taking HIV medicines and has an undetectable viral load can still potentially transmit HIV to a partner. To further lower your risk of transmitting HIV to your partner, you can use condoms correctly every time you have sex and talk to your partner about taking PrEP.
If you inject drugs, don't share your needles, syringes, or other drug equipment with your partner.
Are HIV Medicines Used in Other Situations to Prevent HIV Infection?
Yes, HIV medicines are also used for post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
How Can I Learn More About Preventing HIV?
Browse through the following information. This fact sheet is based on this information.
From the Department of Health and Human Services:
[Note from TheBody: This article was created by AIDSinfo, who last updated it on May 24, 2018. We have cross-posted it with their permission.]
This article was provided by AIDSinfo. Visit the AIDSinfo website to find out more about their activities and publications.
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