How Can I Reduce The Risk?

ABSTINENCE

Abstinence from sexual activity is the only sure way to not become infected through sexual contact. If a person is not sexually active (through oral, anal or vaginal contact), there is virtually no chance of contracting HIV or any STD through sexual activity.

MUTUAL MONOGAMY

Having sex with only one  partner is a way to be sexually active and not risk HIV transmission. Mutual monogamy means that both partners in a relationship are only having sex with each other.

CONDOMS

Condoms are an important tool in preventing the spread of HIV. When used properly, condoms create a barrier that prevents the virus from spreading from an infected individual to someone else. Latex condoms are approximately 90 percent effective at preventing pregnancy and the passage of almost all STDs, including HIV. Most often, human error causes condoms to fail. This figure would be about 98-99 percent if everyone who used condoms used them correctly. Polyurethane condoms and female condoms are also highly effective.

Condoms may be obtained free of charge at any county health department in the state of Florida. Local AIDS services organizations and other community-based organizations also distribute free condoms. To find the nearest location where free condoms are available, call the Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline.

CLEAN NEEDLES

If an injecting drug user is sharing needles, needles and syringes must be cleaned. Ordinary household bleach drawn into the needle and syringe will inactivate HIV. The bleach must be drawn into the syringe, shaken, and squirted out. This process must be completed three times. Then, water must be drawn in, shaken, and squirted to thoroughly rinse out the bleach. This process should also be completed three times since injecting bleach into the veins can be more deadly than HIV.

PrEP and PEP

PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) is a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy that involves the daily use of antiretroviral medications to reduce the risk of HIV infection in HIV-negative individuals. In July 2012, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the use of Truvada (TDF/FTC) for use as PrEP in HIV prevention in sexually active HIV–negative individuals.  PrEP is used in conjunction with other prevention methods to reduce the risk of infection. Learn more about PrEP by clicking here.

Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) involves taking antiretroviral medications as soon as possible after a potential exposure to HIV to reduce the likelihood of HIV infection. There are two types of PEP: 1) occupational PEP, or an exposure that happens in the workplace (such as a needle stick in a healthcare setting), and 2) non-occupational PEP (nPEP), or when someone is potentially exposed to HIV through sexual intercourse or injection drug use.

To be effective, PEP must begin with 72 hours of exposure and consists of 2-3 antiretroviral medications that must be taken for 28 days. A physician must determine what treatment is appropriate based on the nature of the exposure. Starting PEP after a potential exposure does not guarantee that someone exposed to HIV will not become infected. Learn more about PEP by clicking here.

AVOID BREAST FEEDING

Because there are documented cases showing that HIV can be transmitted from mother to infant through breastfeeding, HIV-positive women are counseled to avoid breastfeeding. If the mother does not want to feed her baby formula, another option is locating a milk bank (an organization that collects donated breast milk and distributes it). For more information on this option, look for the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, Inc.

UNIVERSAL PRECAUTIONS

The observation of universal precautions involves the assumption that any patient could be infected with HIV and/or hepatitis and the responsibility to take appropriate precautions. Universal precautions include such practices as hand washing, the use of protective barriers, proper disposal of needles, and cleaning and disinfecting spills. Health care workers must take precautions when working with the body fluids of others. Hands should be washed properly and frequently.

Latex or plastic gloves, goggles, masks, and protective aprons should be worn during appropriate times and procedures to reduce the risk of exposure of skin and mucous membranes. Needles used for the injection of medicines or the drawing of blood should never be recapped or manipulated by hand in any way.

All needles should be disposed of properly in puncture-proof containers. Some healthcare workers have reported contracting HIV through accidental needle sticks from recapping used needles. When cleaning and disinfecting spills, visible material should be removed with disposable towels and the area decontaminated with a 1:10 solution of bleach and water. If universal precautions are followed at all times, infections are not likely to be transmitted in the health care setting.

AVOID SUBSTANCE USE

Substance use does not necessarily put people at risk for HIV directly; however, judgment is often impaired during inebriation and any measures to prevent the transmission of HIV by the individual may be compromised.

STIs

Sexually Transmitted Infections are bacterias/or viruses that are transmitted through sexual activity, this could include skin to skin contact. Some STI’s are curable such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis. However, some are not curable but treatable, such as Herpes, HPV, and HIV. See the chart below to find out more about treatment, testing, and symptoms of each Sexually Transmitted Infection.