How Can You Prevent Transmitting HIV through Sex?
There are several ways to prevent transmitting HIV through anal or vaginal sex.
If you are HIV-negative, you can use HIV prevention medicine known as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) or Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) to protect yourself. You can also use other HIV prevention methods, below.
If you have HIV, the most important thing you can do to prevent transmission and stay healthy is to take HIV medicine (known as antiretroviral therapy or ART) exactly as prescribed.
READ MORE: Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
If you are HIV-negative, you have several options for protecting yourself from getting HIV through vaginal or anal sex. The more of these actions you take, the safer you can be.
To prevent getting HIV through sex, you can:
1. Choose Less Risky Sexual Behaviors.
HIV is mainly spread by having anal or vaginal sex without a condom or without taking medicines to prevent or treat HIV.
Here is some information about the HIV risk associated with specific sexual behaviors
i. Receptive Anal Sex
Receptive Anal Sex is the riskiest type of sex for getting or transmitting HIV. It’s possible for either partner—the partner inserting the penis in the anus (the top) or the partner receiving the penis (the bottom)—to get HIV, but it is much riskier for an HIV-negative partner to be the receptive partner. That’s because the lining of the rectum is thin and may allow HIV to enter the body during anal sex.
ii. Vagina Sex
Vaginal sex also carries a risk of getting HIV, though it is less risky than receptive anal sex. Most women who get HIV get it from vaginal sex, but men can also get HIV from vaginal sex.
iii. Oral Sex
Oral sex carries little to no risk of getting or transmitting HIV. Theoretically, the transmission of HIV is possible if an HIV-positive man ejaculates in his partner’s mouth during oral sex. However, the risk is still very low, and much lower than with anal or vaginal sex.
Factors that may increase the risk of transmitting HIV through oral sex are oral ulcers, bleeding gums, genital sores, and the presence of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), which may or may not be visible.
Sexual activities that don’t involve contact with body fluids (semen, vaginal fluid, or blood) carry no risk of HIV transmission but may pose a risk for other STDs.
It’s advisable you use condoms. Condoms are highly effective at preventing HIV and other STDs like gonorrhea and chlamydia. Prevent Transmitting HIV Through Sex
Talk to your doctor about taking PrEP.
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is HIV medicine people at risk for HIV take to prevent getting HIV. If taken as prescribed, PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV from sex. PrEP is much less effective when it is not taken as prescribed. Currently, there are two FDA-approved daily oral medications for PrEP.
A long-acting injectable form of PrEP has also been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). PrEP may be right for you if you do not have HIV, you have had anal or vaginal sex in the past 6 months, and you have a sexual partner with HIV (especially if the partner has an unknown or detectable viral load); or Have not consistently used a condom, or Have been diagnosed with an STD in the past 6 months.
PrEP is also recommended for people who inject drugs and have an injection partner with HIV or have shared needles, syringes, or other injection equipment.
Take PEP within 72 hours after a possible HIV exposure.
Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) means taking medicine to prevent HIV after a possible exposure. If you’re HIV-negative or don’t know your HIV status and think you have recently been exposed to HIV during sex (for example, if you had a condom break or you were sexually assaulted), talk to your health care provider or an emergency room doctor about PEP right away (within 72 hours). The sooner you start PEP, the better; every hour counts. If you’re prescribed PEP, you’ll need to take it daily for 28 days. Keep in mind that you will not get HIV if your HIV-positive partner is taking HIV medicine as prescribed and their viral load is undetectable.
Encourage your HIV-positive partner to get and stay on HIV treatment. This is the most important thing your partner can do to stay healthy. If taken as prescribed, HIV medicine reduces the amount of HIV in the blood (the viral load) to a very low level. This is called viral suppression. HIV medicine can also make the viral load so low that a standard lab test can’t detect it.
This is called having an undetectable viral load. As noted above, people with HIV who take HIV medicine as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load can live long and healthy lives and will not transmit HIV to their HIV-negative partners through sex.
READ MORE: 10 Surprising Health Benefits Of Sex
Get tested and treated for other STDs and encourage your partners to do the same. If you are sexually active, get tested at regular intervals. Having other STDs increases your risk of getting HIV. STDs can also have long-term health consequences.
Reduce your number of sexual partners. This can lower your chances of having a partner who could transmit HIV to you. The more partners you have, the more likely you are to have a partner with HIV whose viral load is not suppressed or to have a sex partner with an STD. Both these factors can increase the risk of HIV transmission.
Decide not to have sex. Not having sex (also known as abstinence) is a 100% effective way to prevent HIV, other STDs, and pregnancy. You can be abstinent at different times in your life for different reasons that may change over time.
Know your HIV status. The only way to know your HIV status is to get tested. Knowing your status can give you important information and help you make good decisions to prevent getting or transmitting HIV.
Many Antiretroviral Therapy Medications are approved to treat HIV. They work to prevent HIV from reproducing and destroying CD4 cells, which help the immune system generate a response to infection.
This helps reduce the risk of developing complications related to HIV, as well as transmitting the virus to others.
These antiretroviral medications are grouped into seven classes:
1. Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs)
2. Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs)
3. Protease inhibitors
4. Fusion inhibitors
5. CCR5 antagonists, also known as entry inhibitors
6. Integrase Strand Transfer Inhibitors
7. Attachment Inhibitors
Prevent Transmitting HIV Through Sex