HIV and AIDS - Prevention 

Preventing HIV 

The main way to prevent HIV infection is to avoid activities that put you at risk, such as having sex without a condom and sharing needles and other injecting equipment.

If you have HIV you can pass it on to others if you have sex without a condom, or share needles, syringes, or other injecting equipment.

It is important to continue to practise safer sex even if you and your sexual partner both have HIV. This is because you can catch another strain of the virus that your HIV medication may not be able to control.

Sex

HIV can be spread by having vaginal or anal sex without a condom. There is also a risk of transmission through oral sex, but this risk is much lower. 

HIV can also be caught from sharing sex toys with someone infected with HIV.

See causes of HIV for more on transmission of HIV.

The best way to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is to use a condom for penetrative sex and a dental dam for oral sex.

Condoms

Condoms come in a variety of shapes, colours, textures, materials and flavours. Both male and female condoms are available.

A condom is the most effective form of protection against HIV and other STIs. It can be used for vaginal and anal sex, and for oral sex performed on men.

HIV can be passed on before ejaculation, through pre-come and vaginal secretions, and from the anus.

It is very important that condoms are put on before any sexual contact occurs between the penis, vagina, mouth or anus.

Lubricant

Lubricant, or lube, is often used to enhance sexual pleasure and safety, by adding moisture to either the vagina or anus during sex.

Lubricant can make sex safer by reducing the risk of vaginal or anal tears caused by dryness or friction, and it can also prevent a condom from tearing.

Only water-based lubricant (such as K-Y Jelly) rather than an oil-based lubricant (such as Vaseline or massage and baby oil) should be used with condoms.

Oil-based lubricants weaken the latex in condoms and can cause them to break or tear.

Dental dams

A dental dam is a small sheet of latex that works as a barrier between the mouth and the vagina or anus to reduce the risk of STIs during oral sex.

Dental dams are available in a variety of flavours and colours, and typically come in two forms:

  • a sheet, which can be spread across the vagina or anus and held in place during oral sex by either the giver or the receiver
  • a mask with elasticised bands, which is held in place around the ears of the person giving oral sex, leaving the hands free

It is important that dams are only used once, the same side of the dam is always kept against the body, and a new dam is used if a new area of the body is being stimulated. A dam should never be moved from the vagina to the anus or vice versa.

Find out more about what sexual activities can put you at risk of HIV and other STIs.

Sharing needles and injecting equipment

If you inject drugs, don't share needles or syringes, or other injecting equipment such as spoons and swabs, as this could expose you to HIV and other viruses found in the blood, such as hepatitis C.

Many local authorities and pharmacies offer needle exchange programmes, where used needles can be exchanged for clean ones.

If you are a heroin user, consider enrolling in a methadone programme. Methadone can be taken as a liquid, so it reduces your risk of getting HIV.

A GP or drug counsellor should be able to advise you about both needle exchange programmes and methadone programmes.

If you are having a tattoo or piercing, it's important that a clean, sterilised needle is always used.

Page last reviewed: 28/08/2012

Next review due: 28/08/2014

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Comments

The 3 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

W374 said on 12 July 2014

Why is there no information on pre-exposure prophylaxis? (PrEP) I thought this was available on the NHS, or has this now changed?

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think pink said on 01 July 2013

Hi.

I'm currently on a horse yard that has two lads with hiv on . No one has ever had a problem until a few days ago one of us had caught ourselves and had a open cut. One of the blokes that has hiv picked a scab on his arm and was bleeding sat next to the other person bleeding. Was ask if he wanted a plaster to which he replied no I'm fine then wiped the blood on his jeans and on a box then left his cut open.

Just wondering where we stand with this as there is a lot of kids up there and if there would be any risk to anyone
Many thanks

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

think pink said on 01 July 2013

Hi.

I'm currently on a horse yard that has two lads with hiv on . No one has ever had a problem until a few days ago one of us had caught ourselves and had a open cut. One of the blokes that has hiv picked a scab on his arm and was bleeding sat next to the other person bleeding. Was ask if he wanted a plaster to which he replied no I'm fine then wiped the blood on his jeans and on a box then left his cut open.

Just wondering where we stand with this as there is a lot of kids up there and if there would be any risk to anyone
Many thanks

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable