I tell everyone that knowing how to prevent HIV infection is simple. HIV is a blood-borne virus. That means it is shared between people when their blood cells mix. Blood cells are found in 4 fluids: blood (of course), semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. If someone has HIV, the virus is also found in these fluids. These are the fluids we can share with someone else when we have unprotected penetrative sex (anal, vaginal, and oral), share injection drug use equipment, and when women are pregnant, giving birth, or breast-feeding.
Of course, HIV has to be present for infection to take place. So one way of preventing transmission is to make sure everyone who is positive knows it (which is why we should all know our HIV status). The next thing is to make sure that everyone who is HIV positive is in care. Treatment for HIV reduces the amount of virus in the body to levels that reduce the risk of transmission.
To prevent acquiring HIV, people can avoid unprotected sex or use condoms, avoid injection drug use, or use clean drug equipment and not have sex under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Substances set us up for making bad decisions we wouldn’t otherwise make. Remember that up to 70% of new infections are transmitted by people who don’t know they have HIV.
Read more about how to protect yourself and others.