Since HIV is spread by sex, by sharing needles and from mother to child, protecting yourself from HIV breaks down into three major categories.
To avoid sexual transmission of HIV
1. Always use condoms
Male or females condoms can reduce your risk of getting HIV.
2. Be faithful to one partner or have fewer partners
Having one sexual partner or fewer sexual partners can reduce your risk of being exposed to HIV infection or other STDS, which in turn can reduce your risk of HIV infection.
3. Male circumcision
If you’re a man, consider getting circumcised. Male circumcision in a hospital or clinic setting is shown to reduce the risk of getting HIV from a woman by 50 percent. In comparison, female circumcision or female genital cutting/mutilation hasn’t been shown to be preventative for HIV infection.
4. If you’ve got an unusual discharge, sores, or pain when you pee get tested for STDs
These symptoms are signs that something is wrong. Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, genital herpes, trichomoniasis, and bacterial vaginosis have all been shown to increase your risk of getting and spreading HIV. So if you have these symptoms, get them checked out. Also, let your partner know, so he or she can get tested or treated too.
5. Get tested with your partner for HIV
Whenever you’ve got a new partner, before having unprotected sex, get tested. You or your partner could be infected with HIV and not know it.
To avoid blood transmission of HIV
1. Use sterilised needles
Every time you get a blood transfusion make sure new sterilised needles are used. The same principle applies if you use injection drugs – don’t share needles; use new ones each time you shoot up. The same goes for tattooing, body piercing, and acupuncture.
2. Make sure you’re receiving screened blood for blood transfusions
HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B can all be passed on by blood transfusions. So it’s important to make sure the blood you’re receiving is screened, particularly in countries where HIV is common.
To prevent mother to child transmission of HIV
1.Take antiretroviral drugs during your pregnancy and childbirth
If you’re HIV positive and pregnant, you can take antiretroviral drugs during your pregnancy and childbirth to avoid passing HIV to your baby.
Consider getting a Caesarean section, if you’re HIV positive and pregnant. It decreases the chance that you’ll pass HIV on to your baby.
3. If possible, avoid breastfeeding
When possible, the World Health Organization advocates HIV positive mothers to use breast milk replacement.
However, if you’re living in a place where safe drinking water isn’t available, and you’re unable to boil water daily, you may opt not to use breast milk replacement. The risk of catching a life threatening disease from unsafe drinking water may outweigh the risk of getting HIV infection from breast milk. These are things to consider with your health care provider.