HIV and AIDS | Prevention


How can I avoid getting HIV?

The best ways to protect yourself from getting infected with HIV are to:

  • Not have sex with a person who is infected or is having sex with others.
  • Practice “safer” sex if you do have sex.
  • Not share needles and syringes.

You can’t tell who’s infected with HIV by how they look. It takes an average of 8 years for symptoms of AIDS to develop after a person is infected with HIV. So even people who don’t look or feel sick can give you AIDS.

The only 100% sure way to keep from getting the AIDS virus is to not have sex at all or to have sex only with a partner who does not have HIV infection. It is also important to avoid contact with human blood and other body.

What is “safer” sex?

The “safest” sex is no sex. If you are having sex, “safer” sex is sex between 2 people who don’t have HIV infection, only have sex with each other and don’t abuse injectable drugs.

Safer sex also means using condoms if you have any doubts about whether your partner is infected or whether he or she is having sex with someone else. Use male latex condoms every time you have sex.

If a man doesn’t want to use a male condom, use a female condom. Female condoms may not be as effective as male condoms, but they offer some protection.

Never let someone else’s blood, semen, urine, vaginal fluid or feces get into your anus, vagina or mouth.

What’s the right way to use condoms?

Using condoms the right way is important to make sure you are protected. Latex condoms should be used during all sex acts, including anal, vaginal and oral sex. If you are allergic to latex, use a polyurethane condom. For oral sex on a woman, she can use a condom split lengthwise to place between her body and her partner’s mouth.

If you are thinking about using a spermicide, be aware that research has shown that spermicides containing nonoxynol-9 can cause genital irritation and increase your risk of catching an STI. However, using a condom with nonoxynol-9 is better than not using a condom at all.

Use only water-based lubricants (such as K-Y jelly) with condoms. Oil-based lubricants, such as petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline), baby oil or lotions, cause the rubber in condoms to break.

How to use male condoms

Use a latex or polyurethane condom. Condoms made from natural membranes, such as sheep gut, aren’t as good because the virus that causes AIDS is small enough to get through the tiny pores in these condoms.

  • Put the condom on before any contact is made.
  • Unroll the condom over an erect penis. The unrolled ring should be on the outside. Unroll the condom to the base of the penis. Leave about a half-inch of space in the tip so semen can collect there.
  • Squeeze the tip of the condom to get the air out.
  • Pull out after ejaculating ("coming") and before the penis gets soft. Hold the condom against the base of the penis so it doesn't slip off.
  • Throw away the condom. Don't reuse condoms.

What if I share needles?

The best decision for your health is to get help for your drug abuse. If you do share needles and syringes, clean them twice with bleach and water to help kill HIV. Draw bleach into the syringe and needle then squirt it out. Do the same with water. Do both steps again.


How to Recognize and Treat Acute HIV Syndrome by BL Perlmutter, M.D., Ph.D., JB Glaser, M.D., and SO Oyugi, M.D. (American Family Physician August 01, 1999,

Written by editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 04/14
Created: 01/96