Fact Sheet: Preventing HIV Infection

The goal of HIV prevention is to help people learn how to eliminate or reduce their risk of becoming infected with HIV or of transmitting HIV to others.

Preventing the Sexual Transmission of HIV

  • Abstinence from sexual relations is the surest way to prevent the sexual spread of STDs like HIV.

  • Get tested and share your STD status with your partner before having sex. Then practice safer sex techniques to prevent infection.

  • Use a new latex barrier (a male condom, female condom, or dental dam) at each vaginal, anal, or oral sex encounter.

  • Use a water-based lubricant with condoms. Do not use baby oil or other oil-based lubricants such as Vaseline. These may cause holes to form in the condom, causing it to break.

  • Products containing the spermicide nonoxynol-9 (found in most contraceptive creams, gels, suppositories, foams, films and sponges) help to prevent pregnancy but may increase the risk of HIV.

  • Never share sex toys.

  • Engaging in a committed, monogamous relationship with a person who is free from HIV or any other STD is safer if you both mutually agree to refrain from any high-risk behaviors.

  • Be aware of cultural and social norms that may weaken your ability to negotiate with sex partners for safer sex.

Preventing the Transmission of HIV Through Needle and Blood Contact

  • Always use new sterile equipment and supplies. Don't share or reuse any piercing, tattooing, or injection needles.

  • Using needles cleaned with bleach or that have been heated is not as safe as using new, sterile needles.

  • Don't share drug supplies. Make sure cotton, water, and the drug itself are not contaminated.

  • If you are an injection drug user, seek treatment as soon as possible for your substance abuse.

  • Don't share toothbrushes, floss, or razors.

  • If you are HIV-positive, don't donate blood, plasma or organs.

  • Try not to come in contact with other people's blood.

Preventing the Transmission of HIV from Mother to Child

  • Get tested and seek treatment for HIV before becoming pregnant or as early as possible during the pregnancy.

  • Take zidovudine (AZT or ZDV) or nevirapine during pregnancy and labor to reduce the chance of transmission to your baby.

  • If you are HIV-positive, use baby formulas if they are available, since HIV can be transmitted through breast milk.

  • Delivery by Cesarean section can reduce HIV transmission from a mother to her baby.

Did You Know?

Activities such as:
  • Body piercing

  • Tattooing

  • Sharing razor blades

  • Using performance enhancing injection drugs (i.e., steroids)

may increase your risk for contracting HIV if contaminated equipment is used. Reusing needles and razors introduces the potential for blood-to-blood contact.