How do I protect myself?

Protecting yourself against HIV is about knowledge. Understanding how you get (and avoid getting) HIV, and knowing yourself and your partner (or partners), are key to protecting yourself against HIV.

Many people who “know better” engage in risky activities. The reasons for this are numerous and normal: you could be afraid to insist that your partner use a condom; you could make false assumptions about partners (they seem too young, old, healthy-looking, or nice to be HIV positive); you might be a drinker or recreational drug user who does things while under the influence that you wouldn’t otherwise consider. The hardest part of protecting yourself can be learning how to apply what you know to your life and behavior.

Be safe and smart with your decisions. Reduce your risk for HIV by avoiding activities that put you at risk and only practicing safer sex. Don’t be afraid to get tested or to insist that your partner get tested; knowing your HIV status and that of your partner (or partners) will help you make more informed decisions.

Talk to your friends and peers–what do they do? Ask HIV InSite has real questions and answers and links to sites with expert advice.

Additionally, many organizations have prevention materials with targeted advice for specific populations: young people, gay men, women, and more. Call a hotline for more information.

Other Things to Consider

If you are a health care worker or someone else with potential occupational exposure to HIV, you should be given clear guidelines about universal precautions, and follow them without exception. If you have been exposed, contact your local emergency room or occupational health department; in the United States, there is a national PEP (postexposure prophylaxis) hotline for advice and treatment protocols: 1-888-HIV-4911.

If you have been a victim of sexual assault, or have had another incident (like a condom breaking) that you believe may have exposed you to HIV you should immediately contact a physician and consider short-term antiretroviral treatment (postexposure prophylaxis).