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Fact Sheet: Preventing HIV Infection

December 1, 2000

For people who are not infected with HIV, prevention efforts focus on keeping them from becoming infected.

For the HIV-positive, prevention seeks to keep them from developing opportunistic infections, to prevent their infection from progressing to AIDS, and to keep them from spreading HIV to others.

How to Prevent HIV Infection

  • Abstinence is the safest way to be sure you will not be infected with HIV or any other sexually-transmitted disease (STD).

  • Living in a committed, monogamous relationship with a person who is free from HIV or any other STD is safe, if you have a mutual agreement to refrain from any high risk behaviors.


  • Don't have sex with anyone whose health status you do not know.

  • If you have sex, use a new latex condom or other latex barrier every time.

  • With condoms, use a water-based lubricant. Do not use baby oil or other oil-based lubricants. These may cause the condom to be ineffective.

  • Don't share sex toys.

  • Don't share needles or other drug supplies.

For the HIV-Positive

  • Observe all precautions above to protect yourself and anyone with whom you are intimate.

  • Reveal your HIV-positive status to anyone you have had sex with or are currently intimate with.

  • To avoid reinfection with HIV and other infections, always use a condom when having sex, even if you and your partner are HIV-positive.

  • Don't donate blood, plasma or organs.

  • Don't share toothbrushes, needles or razors.

For Men who have Sex with Men

  • Use a new latex condom during oral or anal sex. (Use only water-based lubricants.)

  • Unprotected anal sex is a very high risk behavior, especially if you and your partner do not have a mutual agreement to refrain from higher risk behaviors outside the relationship.

  • Face personal issues of self esteem that may make you less motivated to practice safer sex.

For Women who have Sex with Women

  • Female-to-female sexual contact is a possible way to become infected with HIV.

  • Oral or vaginal exposure to vaginal secretions, menstrual blood and breast milk is potentially infectious.

  • Use a dental dam or other barrier for oral sex.

For Pregnant HIV-Positive Women

Pregnant women can significantly reduce the chance of passing the HIV virus to their child by taking AIDS drugs during pregnancy and labor.
  • Because HIV can be transmitted through breast milk, don't breast-feed your baby if you are HIV positive.

For Heterosexuals

  • Use a new latex condom for each act of vaginal or anal sex. (Use only water-based lubricants.) For oral sex use a new condom or other protective barrier.

  • The female condom provides effective protection against HIV and STDs. It can give a woman greater control over protecting herself without relying on a male's willingness to use a condom.

  • Women who have sex with men must rely on their knowledge about condom use and their ability to convince partners to use condoms.

  • Recent studies have warned women at risk for HIV not to use products containing the microbicide nonoxynol-9 (found in most contraceptive creams, gels, suppositories, foams, films and sponges). The chemical may increase the risk for acquiring the HIV virus.

  • Be aware of cultural and social norms that affect sexual negotiations.

For Injection Drug Users

  • Seek treatment as soon as possible for your substance abuse.

  • Always use sterile injection equipment.

  • Never share needles, syringes, and other injection equipment.

  • Using syringes cleaned with bleach is effective but not as safe as using new sterile syringes.

  • Be sure all equipment and supplies used (cotton, water, needles) are not contaminated.

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This article was provided by American Association for World Health. It is a part of the publication AIDS: All Men -- Make a Difference!.