Not having sex is the most effective way to avoid contracting or transmitting HIV. Having sex with one person who only has sex with you (mutual monogamy) and who know each other’s status is also effective.
It is important to know your own – and your partner’s – HIV status. By knowing if you have HIV or another STI, you can take precautions to protect your own health and your partner(s). Get tested regularly, especially before starting a new relationship. People with HIV who are in care and taking their HIV medicines as prescribed can reach an undetectable viral load. When people reach and maintain undetectable viral load levels, the virus cannot be transmitted sexually (undetectable = untransmittable). HIV-negative individuals who have an HIV-positive partner can also use PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) to prevent transmission.
If you choose to be sexually active, use condoms each and every time you have sex. When used consistently and correctly latex condoms are considered highly effective, though not 100%, in preventing the spread of HIV and protecting against other STIs. If you or your partner(s) are allergic to latex, plastic (polyurethane) condoms (male or female) can be used.
When performing oral sex on a man (fellatio), the use of latex condoms, withdrawal before ejaculation without a condom (avoiding semen in the mouth) and/or refraining from this activity when cuts or sores are present in the mouth can reduce the risk of transmission.
When performing oral sex on a woman (cunnilingus), moisture barriers such as a dental dam (sheet of latex), a cut-open and flattened condom or household plastic wrap can reduce the risk of exposure to vaginal secretions and/or blood.
Avoid using needles or drug works (commonly called paraphernalia). If you do use them, make sure they are new and sterile (along with sterile water, new containers and new filters). Do not share them with other people and safely dispose of them after one use. Only use syringes obtained from reliable sources, such as pharmacies or needle exchange programs and clean the injection site with a new alcohol swab before injection. If new, sterile syringes and equipment are not available, then previously-used equipment should be boiled in water or disinfected with bleach before reuse.
Safe sex refers to sexual activities that do not involve any sexual fluid from one person getting into another person’s body. If two people are having safe sex, even if one person is HIV-positive there is no possibility of transmitting HIV. Safe sex activities include hugging, touching, caressing and mutual masturbation.
Safer sex refers to a range of sexual activities that hold little risk of HIV transmission or other STIs. If you are not in a mutually-monogamous relationship (sex with only you and your partner) and you and your partner are both HIV-negative, safer sex can include properly using a barrier (latex condom or dental dam) each time you have sex, from start to finish. Condoms are the only method that provides protection against HIV, other STIs and unintended pregnancy.