Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the immune system, resulting in acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), a later stage of the infection that happens when the immune system has been severely damaged.
HIV/AIDS is one of the world’s most serious health problems in human history. According to WHO, approximately 38 million people living with HIV at the end of 2019, and over 33 million people have died from HIV worldwide.
Currently, there is no cure for HIV infection. Therefore, we need to put more emphasis on prevention efforts. By following these tips, you can greatly reduce your chances of becoming HIV-positive.
1. Avoid sharing needles or other injection equipments
HIV can be transmitted through shared needles or syringes among people who inject drugs. You’re at risk whether you’re just injecting under the skin or directly into your bloodstream. If you inject drugs, follow these tips to lower your risk of getting HIV:
- Always use a new, sterile needle or syringe for each injection.
- If you must use a needle used by others, clean it with bleach before using it.
- Only use injection equipments that you got from a reliable source, such as pharmacies or needle exchange programs.
- Don’t share needles or syringes with family or friends.
2. Use condoms
Using condom is one of the effective ways to prevent HIV/AIDS. When used correctly and consistently (that means every time you have sex), condoms can greatly reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
Latex condoms are the best, but you can use non-latex condoms if you have a latex allergy. Do not reuse it and make sure that the condom is not damaged and that its expiration date has not passed.
3. Take pre-exposure prophylaxis
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is an HIV prevention strategy for people who don’t have HIV but are at risk of getting HIV. PrEP involves taking antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) daily.
The ARVs that have undergone the most testing for PrEP treatment are tenofovir and emtricitabine, taken in a once-a-day combination pill called Truvada.
Studies have shown that, when taken as directed, Truvada is very effective in preventing HIV transmission. But, it is important to note that taking Truvada may only prevent HIV infection. It does not protect a person from other STIs or blood-borne infections.
4. Get tested
Be sure you and your partner are tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) before having sex. If you are sexually active, you should get tested for HIV at least once a year.
Having an STI increases your risk for getting or transmitting HIV. So, if you have an STD in addition to HIV, you should also get tested for HIV. Find an HIV or STDs testing location here.