Font Size

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) Infection (cont.)


Safer sex

Practice safer sex. This includes using a condom unless you are in a relationship with one partner who does not have HIV or other sex partners.

If you do have sex with someone who has HIV, it is important to practice safer sex and to be regularly tested for HIV.

Talk with your sex partner or partners about their sexual history as well as your own sexual history. Find out whether your partner has a history of behaviors that increase his or her risk for HIV.

You may be able to take a combination medicine (tenofovir plus emtricitabine) every day to help prevent infection with HIV. This medicine can lower the risk of getting HIV.9, 10, 11 But the medicine is expensive, and you still need to practice safer sex to keep your risk low.

Alcohol and drugs

If you use alcohol or drugs, be very careful. Being under the influence can make you careless about practicing safer sex.

And never share intravenous (IV) needles, syringes, cookers, cotton, cocaine spoons, or eyedroppers with others if you use drugs.

If you already have HIV

If you are infected with HIV, you can greatly lower the risk of spreading the infection to your sex partner by starting treatment when your immune system is still healthy.

Experts recommend starting treatment as soon as you know you are infected.1

A large study found that early treatment greatly lowers the risk of spreading HIV to an uninfected partner.12 This study was done mainly with heterosexual couples, so the effectiveness of HIV treatment in preventing the spread of HIV to a same-sex partner may be different.

Steps to avoid spreading HIV

If you are HIV-positive (infected with HIV) or have engaged in sex or needle-sharing with someone who could be infected with HIV, take precautions to avoid spreading the infection to others.

  • Tell your sex partner or partners about your behavior and whether you are HIV-positive.
  • Follow safer sex practices, such as using condoms.
  • Do not donate blood, plasma, semen, body organs, or body tissues.
  • Do not share personal items, such as toothbrushes, razors, or sex toys, that may be contaminated with blood, semen, or vaginal fluids.

If you are pregnant

The risk of a woman spreading HIV to her baby can be greatly reduced if she:

  • Is on medicine that reduces the amount of virus in her blood to undetectable levels during pregnancy.
  • Continues treatment during pregnancy.
  • Does not breast-feed her baby.

The baby should also receive treatment after it is born.

Next Page:

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

To learn more visit

© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Medical Dictionary