HIV Prevention: How To Protect Yourself From HIV Transmission?

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), globally, 37.7 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2020. An estimated 0.7% of adults aged 15-49 years worldwide are living with HIV, although the burden of the epidemic continues to vary considerably between countries and regions. The WHO African region remains most severely affected, with nearly 1 in every 25 adults (3.6%) living with HIV and accounting for more than two-thirds of the people living with HIV worldwide. There is currently no cure for HIV that is completely cured in most cases, thereby, implementing HIV prevention is the best way to protect your health.

hiv prevention

What is HIV/AIDS?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify that HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. If HIV is not treated, it can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

Causes of HIV transmission

Through blood products

HIV is found in whole blood as well as in blood components such as red blood cells, platelets, plasma, and clotting factors. Therefore, HIV can be transmitted through HIV-infected blood and blood products

Sharing needles, syringes, or other drug injection equipment with someone who has HIV is an example that put you at high risk of getting HIV

Perinatal transmission

It is the most popular reason why a baby is born with HIV infection. During the period of pregnancy, HIV passes from the blood of an HIV-infected mother through the placenta to the fetus. 

HIV from amniotic fluid, uterine fluid, and vaginal fluid from the mother enters the baby at birth (through the baby’s mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, anus, or the baby’s skin during childbirth) when a baby is born. At birth, HIV can also get from the mother’s blood through sores in the mother’s genitals that stick to the baby’s body. 

When the mother breastfeeds her children, HIV can be transmitted through milk or through cracks in the mother’s nipples, especially when the baby has lesions in the oral mucosa.

hiv prevention

Sexual Contact

Sexual transmission of HIV occurs when body fluids (blood, genital secretions) infected with HIV of an HIV-infected person enter the body of a non HIV-infected partner. All forms of sex with a person with HIV carries a risk of HIV transmission. However, the degree of risk is different

  • Anal sex is the riskiest type of sex for transmitting HIV. You can easily get HIV if you have sex without any protection  such as condoms or medicine
  • Vaginal sex is less risky for getting HIV than receptive anal sex but it still make you infected when you do not have any protective measures.
  • Oral sex is a type of sex that has little risk of HIV transmission.

Symptoms of HIV infection 

At each stage of HIV, the patient will experience different symptoms:

Stage 1: Acute HIV Infection

After 2-4 weeks of exposure, patients have a large amount of HIV in their blood and are very contagious. They often have symptoms of fever, cough, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, pain, etc., similar to flu or no obvious symptoms. If you have the above signs, it is possible for you to have been exposed to HIV and you need to get an HIV test. At that stage, only antigen/antibody tests or nucleic acid tests (NATs) can diagnose acute infection.

Stage 2: Chronic HIV Infection or clinical latency

During this time, people may not experience any symptoms or become ill but they can transmit virus to others

The immune system cannot fight off a large amount of HIV virus, the number of T lymphocytes decreases sharply, and HIV antigens increase. That’s why it’s called a chronic infection. Lymph nodes are often inflamed by capturing the virus to protect the body.

Depending on the patient’s resistance, this stage can last from a few weeks to 20 years. People who take HIV medicine as prescribed may never move into Stage 3.

Stage 3: Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)

This is the most severe phase of HIV infection. The immune system is destroyed, disabled, losing resistance due to strong viral attack and signs of infection caused by opportunistic microorganisms such as: oral candidiasis, fungal pneumonia , had lymphoma and shingles caused by herpes virus outbreak.

AIDS patients might have a high viral load and be extremely infectious. Patients often have rashes, sores, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, skin and bones on the body due to unexplained weight loss, etc., and are susceptible to common diseases. Without treatment, the patient will become more debilitated, emaciated, lose his ability to live and have a high risk of death.

How to prevent HIV/AIDS?

Taking Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)

PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is medicine people at risk for HIV take to prevent getting HIV from sex or injection drug use. It is a highly efficient HIV prevention. When taken as prescribed, PrEP reduces the risk of contracting HIV from sex by nearly 100%.

Although there is less data on how effective PrEP is in people who inject drugs, we do know that when taken as instructed, PrEP reduces the risk of HIV infection by at least 74%.

Safer sex practices

Using condoms is a way to practice safer sex. If you have sex with someone who has HIV, it’s important to practice safe sex and get tested for HIV regularly. However, you should keep in mind that having sex with a condom does not completely eliminate the risk of HIV transmission 100% because the condom can be punctured or you use it incorrectly.

hiv prevention

Not sharing needles

Needles can easily transmit HIV from one person to another. You should not use injectable drugs that are not provided by a medical facility with fully sterilized equipment.

Avoid touching other people’s blood and other bodily fluids

You never know for sure if someone has HIV. Therefore, avoid touching other people’s blood if possible and also avoid contact with other body fluids that can spread HIV. Those bodily fluids include:

  • Sperm;
  • Vaginal discharge;
  • Rectal mucosa;
  • Mother milk;
  • Amniotic fluid, cerebrospinal fluid, and synovial fluid in the knee joint.


Is HIV transmitted through saliva?

HIV is not transmitted through saliva. Saliva contact such as sharing dishes, sharing dishes, drinking water from the same glass is considered normal contact. In fact, there are no reported cases of infection through these contacts.

Is there a vaccine for HIV?

There are currently no vaccinations available to prevent or cure HIV. Experimental vaccinations are still being researched and tested, but none are close to being licensed for widespread use.

Can I get pregnant when getting HIV?

Yes. Although an infected mother can pass HIV to her baby during pregnancy or delivery,  you can reduce this risk by getting the right care and medication. Pregnant women with HIV can take medication to treat the infection and help protect their babies against the virus.

Is it possible for me to get HIV from having a tattoo?

Yes, if the tattoo artist uses the same needle that was used on an HIV-positive person. This is because every activity that involves the transmission of blood from one person to another poses a risk of HIV infection.

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