HIV destroys CD4 T cells — healthy cells that help the body fight germs and disease. It can spread through sex, illicit drug injection, sharing syringes or equipment and from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.

The most important thing you can do to prevent getting HIV is to use a condom every time you have sex. You can also take medication, called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), before sexual encounters to lower your risk.

Use condoms correctly

Condoms can prevent HIV and most other STIs if they are used consistently and correctly. But they’re not perfect – breakage, slippage or leakage are still possible.

To reduce the risk of these problems, use a condom that is made from latex or a synthetic material like polyurethane and avoid lubricants (such as sex cream, Crisco or oil-based lubricants) that could cause the condom to tear. Also, don’t store condoms in warm places where they might get damaged and always check the expiration date before using them.

To use an external condom, carefully open the package and place it on the tip of the hard penis (if uncircumcised, pull back the foreskin first). Carefully slide it down to the base of the penis or sex toy. Then, insert the internal condom if there is one. Remember to remove both the external and internal condom after sex and throw them away. Condoms do not provide protection from some STIs that spread through skin-to-skin contact, including gonorrhea and chlamydia.

Don’t inject drugs

Using injection drugs puts people at high risk for getting HIV. Women who use injection drugs or exchange sex for cash and goods are particularly at risk. If you are worried you may have been exposed to HIV, you should talk to your health care provider and get tested right away. There are also prevention tools like pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) that can be taken before an HIV exposure to reduce the risk of infection, browse this site.

Injecting drugs can cause HIV by introducing the virus into your body through bodily fluids. HIV damages your immune system by destroying CD4 cells that help fight infections. Over time, HIV can destroy enough CD4 cells that you get AIDS. This causes a lot of problems with your body’s ability to fight infections and other diseases. PrEP and consistent and correct condom use can help stop the progression to AIDS. Ask your doctor about PrEP or Truvada, the HIV prevention pill.

Get tested regularly

HIV can only be passed from person to person by exchanging bodily fluids – usually during sex. It is possible to reduce your chances of getting HIV by using barrier methods – such as condoms – when having vaginal, oral or anal sex. You should also use condoms to protect your genitals from other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

If you think you may have been exposed to HIV, you can get tested. You will need to wait a certain amount of time after being exposed before an HIV test can detect the virus. This is called the window period and varies by test type. A nucleic acid (NAT) test has the shortest window period.

It is recommended that you also take antiretroviral treatment (ART) if you have HIV. ART can make the HIV in your body undetectable and help keep you healthy. It can also reduce the chance of you transmitting HIV to others, as long as you take your medication every day.

Get treatment

HIV can only be passed from person to person by exchanging bodily fluids, primarily through vaginal and anal sex or using contaminated needles when injecting drugs. Other risky activities like avoiding condom use and having multiple sexual partners increase your chances of getting STIs (including chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis).

HIV destroys important white blood cells that fight infection and disease. When they are gone, the immune system can’t respond properly and this leads to AIDS.

There are many ways to prevent getting and transmitting HIV, including sexual abstinence, consistent and correct condom use and taking pre-exposure prophylaxis medication or PEP when at risk of exposure. PrEP reduces the risk of HIV infection by about 99% when taken consistently.


Everyone with HIV should start on antiretroviral treatment right away, a combination of medications that decreases the amount of virus in the body and keeps it undetectable. Taking ART can improve your health, help you live longer and protect others by keeping the virus at undetectable levels.