Here’s something you might not realize: Anyone can get HIV. And that means everyone can benefit from taking preventive measures to protect themselves from the sexually transmitted infection.
Abstinence is the only proven way to prevent transmission. The next-best ways? Below, Stacey Rizza, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Mayo Clinic, weighs in.
1. Get tested with your partner
Having another STI (gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, HPV, or herpes) ups your risk of both contracting HIV and transmitting it if you’re HIV positive. Open sores on the skin can make it more likely for the virus to spread, and even without sores, increased inflammation can bump up the number of vulnerable cells for HIV to target. That’s why talking to your partner and getting tested together—so that you’re aware of each other’s statuses—is a surefire way to know where you both stand and what preventive measures you need to take, Dr. Rizza says.
2. Use condoms
When you use them (1) the right way and (2) every single time, condoms are incredibly effective in preventing STIs such as HIV.
3. Consider circumcision (for both you and your partner)
Science is on circumcision’s side here: The penis’s foreskin is full of dentric cells, which have special receptors that allow HIV to enter. That’s why uncircumcised men are at an elevated risk of contracting HIV, Dr. Rizza says. Being circumcised lowers your risk.
4. Never share needles
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that people who use intravenous drugs account for about 1 in 10 HIV diagnoses in the U.S. When you share needles or other equipment, you could unknowingly be introducing infected blood into your own body. Clean needle exchange programs and never sharing needles lowers your risk of transmission, Dr. Rizza says.
By Cassie Shortsleeve