How can I protect my partners?
Get and Keep an Undetectable Viral Load
If you are taking HIV medication and have an undetectable viral load, you will not transmit HIV to your sex partner. This is because having an undetectable viral load likely reduces the risk of transmission through sharing needles or syringes, but we do not know by how much. Getting and keeping an undetectable viral load is the best thing you can do to stay healthy and protect others from getting HIV.
What if I cannot get an undetectable viral load?
An HIV-positive person's viral load is the amount of HIV in their blood. A person is considered to have an undetectable viral load when the level of HIV in their blood is so low that it can't be detected by a standard lab test. Having an undetectable viral load is important because it means that HIV is less likely to be passed on to someone else. It also means that the person with HIV is likely to stay healthy and live a long life. However, not everyone who has HIV will be able to get an undetectable viral load. If your viral load is not undetectable or does not stay undetectable, you can still protect your partners by using other prevention options. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to stay healthy and lower your risk of passing HIV
Encourage Your Partners to Take PrEP
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a medicine that people who are at risk for HIV can take to prevent the virus. The medication works by stopping HIV from replicating in the body, which reduces the person's risk of contracting the virus.
PrEP is a highly effective way to prevent HIV infection through sexual intercourse when taken as prescribed. Keeping yourself healthy and HIV-free is important, and PrEP is one way to help make that happen.
Use Condoms the Right Way Every Time You Have Sex
Condoms are one of the most effective ways to prevent HIV transmission. They can also help protect against other STDs, like gonorrhea and chlamydia. When used correctly, condoms are a simple and powerful way to keep you and your partner healthy.
Water-based lubricants and Silicone-based lubricants can help prevent condoms from breaking. By using a water-based or silicone-based lubricant, you can help keep your condom intact and reduce the risk of breakage.
Choose Sexual Activities with Little to No Risk
Despite popular belief, there are ways to have safer sex than simply using abstinence. Protection and being well informed about the various STDs are important steps to take in order to enjoy healthy and active sex life.
To reduce the risk of transmitting HIV, choose activities that do not involve contact with body fluids (semen, vaginal fluid, or blood).
Get Tested and Treated for Other STDs
It's important to get tested and treated for other STDs in order to stop transmitting HIV. Getting regular checkups can help identify any problems early and keep you healthy.
Talk to Your Partner About PEP If You Think They May Have Been Recently Exposed to HIV
If you or your partner have been exposed to HIV, it's important to talk about PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis). PEP can potentially prevent HIV infection if started within 72 hours of exposure.
Never Share Needles, Syringes, or Other Drug Injection Equipment
To avoid cross-contamination, use new, sterile syringes and injection equipment every time you inject. Some communities have syringe services programs (SSPs) where you can get new needles and syringes, dispose of used ones, and get referrals to substance use disorder treatment, testing for infectious diseases, and care by trained professionals.
How can I protect my baby?
Talk to Your Health Care Provider About Medical Care for You and Your Baby
HIV is most commonly spread through sexual contact, but it can also be transmitted through blood, breast milk, or other bodily fluids.
If you are pregnant and have HIV, the following are steps you can take to protect your baby:
- First, you should take HIV medication as prescribed by your doctor. This will help to lower the amount of virus in your blood and reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to your baby during pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
- If you have HIV and are not receiving treatment, there is still a way to protect your baby.
- You can request a cesarean section (C-section) instead of a vaginal delivery. A C-section is a surgical procedure in which the baby is delivered through an incision in the mother's abdomen. C-sections are typically safe for both mother and child, and they can greatly reduce the risk of HIV transmission during childbirth.
Take HIV Medicine as Prescribed and Give HIV Medicine to Your Baby After Birth
HIV medicine is important for both you and your baby. Make sure to take your HIV medicine as prescribed, and give HIV medicine to your baby after birth. This will help keep both of you healthy and lowers the risk of passing the virus to your child.
Don’t Breastfeed Your Baby
HIV can be transmitted through breast milk, so it's important to avoid breastfeeding if you're infected. You can still provide your baby with the nutrients they need through other means, and there are plenty of resources available to help you make the transition.
If I have an undetectable viral load, do my partner and I need to use anything else to prevent sexual transmission of HIV?
HIV is transmitted through sexual contact, sharing needles, and from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding. People with HIV can take medication to prevent the virus from multiplying in their bodies and fight HIV-related infections and illnesses. When HIV medication reduces the virus to an undetectable level, it means that HIV is still present in the body but is at such low levels that it can’t be detected by a viral load test. An undetectable viral load means that HIV isn’t being passed on during sex. However, using other methods of protection, such as condoms, is always recommended to reduce the risk of HIV transmission. There is also a small risk that HIV could become detectable again if someone with HIV stops taking their medication as prescribed. For this reason, it’s important to keep up with regular appointments with a healthcare provider.