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HIV Prevenion and [Safer Sex]

Taking simple steps to prevent getting or spreading HIV will pay off both for you and for those you love. The only 100 percent effective way to prevent the spread of HIV through sex is to abstain — to not have sex of any kind. If you do have sex, practice safer sex methods. These are the steps you can take to help prevent HIV infection from sex:

  • Abstain from sex. Not having vaginal, anal, or oral sex is the surest way to avoid HIV. If you do decide to have sex, you can reduce your risk of HIV by practicing safer sex.
  • Get tested. Be sure you know yours and your partner's HIV status before ever having sex.
  • Use condoms . Use them correctly and every time you have sex. Using a male condom for all types of sex can greatly lower your risk of getting HIV during sex. If you or your partner is allergic to latex, use polyurethane condoms. If your partner won't use a male condom, you can use a female condom. It may protect against HIV, but we don't have much evidence that it does, so it is better to use a male condom, which we know has a high rate of preventing HIV infection. Do not use a male and female condom at the same time. They do not work together and can break. "Natural" or "lambskin" condoms don't protect against HIV. Condoms are easy to find, and some places give them out for free. Contact your local health department or a health clinic for information about places in your area that may give away free condoms. For instance, the New York State Health Department offers a cellphone app that can help youth find free condoms in their area.
  • Talk with your partner. Learn how to talk with your sexual partner about HIV and using condoms. It's up to you to make sure you are protected. Remember, it's your body!
  • Practice monogamy (be faithful to one partner). Being in a sexual relationship with only one partner who is also faithful to you can help protect you.
  • Limit your number of sexual partners. Your risk of getting HIV goes up with the number of partners you have. Condoms should be used for any sexual activity with a partner who has HIV. They should also be used with any partner outside of a long-term, faithful sexual relationship.
  • Use protection for all kinds of sexual contact. Remember that you don't only get HIV from penile-vaginal sex. Use a condom during oral sex and during anal sex. Dental dams also can be used to help lower your risk as well as your partner's risk of getting HIV during oral-vaginal or oral-anal sex.
  • Know that other types of birth control will not protect you from HIV. Other methods of birth control, like birth control pills, shots, implants, or diaphragms, will not protect you from HIV. If you use one of these, be sure to also use a male condom or dental dam correctly every time you have sex.
  • Don't use nonoxynol-9 (N-9). Some contraceptives, like condoms, suppositories, foams, and gels contain the spermicide N-9. You shouldn't be using gels, foams, or suppositories to prevent against HIV — these methods only lower chances of pregnancy, not of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). N-9 actually makes your risk of HIV infection higher, because it can irritate the vagina, which might make it easier for HIV to get into your body.
  • Get screened for STIs. Having an STI, particularly genital herpes, increases your chances of becoming infected with HIV during sex. If your partner has an STI in addition to HIV, that also increases your risk of HIV infection. If you have an STI, you should also get tested for HIV.
  • Don't douche. Douching removes some of the normal bacteria in the vagina that protects you from infection. This can increase your risk of getting HIV.
  • Don't abuse alcohol or drugs, which are linked to sexual risk-taking. Drinking too much alcohol or using drugs also puts you at risk of sexual assault and possible exposure to HIV.



  • Information published courtesy of Womens Health, UNAIDS, AIDS INFO.


    This article was last modified in: 06/18/2012