There's no vaccine to prevent HIV infection and no cure for AIDS. But it's possible to protect yourself and others from infection. That means educating yourself about HIV and avoiding any behavior that allows HIV-infected fluids — blood, semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk — into your body.
If you're HIV-negative
The following measures can help keep you from being infected with HIV:
•Educate yourself and others. Make sure you understand what HIV isand how the virus is transmitted. Just as important, teach your children about HIV. Know the HIV status of any sexual partner. Don't engage in unprotected sex unless you're absolutely certain yo
•Use a new latex or polyurethane condom every time you have sex. If you don't know the HIV status of your partner, use a new latex condom every time you have anal or vaginal sex. Women can use a female condom. If you're allergic to latex, use a plastic (polyurethane) condom. Avoid lambskin condoms — they don't protect you from HIV. Use only water-based lubricants, not petroleum jelly, cold cream or oils. Oil-based
lubricants can weaken condoms and cause them to break. During oral sex use a condom, dental dam — a piece of medical-grade latex — or plastic wrap. Remember
that although condoms can reduce your risk of ontracting HIV, they don't eliminate
the risk entirely. Condoms can break or develop small tears, and they may not always
be used properly.
•Consider male circumcision. A large study in 2006 by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) showed that medically performed circumcision significantly reduced a man's risk of acquiring HIV through heterosexual ntercourse. The study, conducted in Kenya, showed a 53 percent eduction of HIV infection in circumcised HIV-negative men compared with uncircumcised men in the study. The outcome was heralded by the NIH is good news not only because it reduced the number of HIV-infected en, but also because it could lead to fewer infections among women in reas of the world where HIV is spread primarily through heterosexual intercourse.
•Use a clean needle. If you use a needle to inject drugs, make sure it's sterile, and don't share it. Take advantage of needle exchange programs in your community and consider seeking help for your drug use.
•Be cautious about blood products in certain countries. Although the blood supply in the United States is now well screened, this isn't always the case in other countries.
If an emergency requires that you receive blood or blood products in another country, get tested for HIV as soon as you return home.
•Get regular screening tests. If you are a woman, have a yearly Pap test. And if you're a man or woman who has had sex with one or more new partners, be tested annually. Men and women who engage in anal sex should also have regular tests for anal cancer.
•Don't become complacent. Because potent anti-retroviral medications have reduced the number of AIDS deaths in the United States, you may think that HIV infection is no longer a problem. But HIV/AIDS is still a terminal illness for which there is no vaccine and no cure. Right now, the only way to stay healthy is to protect yourself and others from infection.
If you're HIV-positive
If you've received a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS, the following guidelines can help
•Follow safe-sex practices. The only foolproof way to protect others from infection is
to avoid practices that expose them to blood, semen or vaginal secretions. Barring that, carefully follow guidelines for safe sex, including using a new latex condom every time you have vaginal or anal sex and using a dental dam, condom or piece of plastic wrap during oral sex. If you use sexual devices, don't share them. It's also important to avoid having unprotected sex with other HIV-positive people because of the risk of acquiring or passing on a drug-resistant strain of the virus.
•Tell your sexual partners you have HIV. It's important to tell anyone with whom you've had sex that you're HIV-positive. Your partners need to be tested and to receive medical care if they have the virus. They also need to know their HIV status so that they don't infect others.
•If your partner is pregnant, tell her you have HIV. Be sure to tell any pregnant woman with whom you've had sex that you're HIV-positive. She needs to receive treatment to protect her own health and that of her baby.
•Tell others who need to know. Although only you can decide whether to tell friends and family about your illness, you do need to inform your health care providers of your HIV status. This is not just to protect them, but also to ensure that you get the best possible medical care.
•Don't share needles or syringes. If you use intravenous drugs, never share your needles and syringes.
•Don't donate blood or organs. The virus will spread to other people.
•Don't share razor blades or toothbrushes. These items may carry traces of
•If you're pregnant, get medical care right away. If you're HIV-positive, you may pass the infection to your baby. But if you receive treatment during pregnancy, you can cut your baby's risk by as much as two-thirds.