HOW DO YOU PREVENT HIV?

For three decades condoms have been the cornerstone of HIV prevention and today there are new approaches that can help prevent HIV infections. Biomedical prevention has widened the range of tools we now have available to prevent HIV, and now the prevention took kit includes;

HIV Prevention Toolkit
  • Condoms
  • Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)
  • Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)
  • Undetectable Viral Load (UVL)
Condoms

Condoms are a very useful way of preventing HIV and they are the only HIV prevention strategy that offers protection against other STIs. Using condoms correctly is very important when it comes to preventing HIV. The following tips will reduce the chances of condoms breaking or slipping off:

  • Check the date on the packet and never used condoms that are past their used by date;
  • Be careful opening the packet, especially if you are using your teeth, as you don’t want to rip the condom;
  • Hold the teat part of the condom whilst squeezing the air out of it and then place it on the head of the erect penis;
  • Unroll the condom all the way to the base of the penis without stretching it;
  • Use lubrication to help prevent tearing, especially if engaging in anal sex; and
  • After ejaculation, hold onto the condom at the base of the cock when pulling out and gently slide the condom off your cock. 

Remember

  • Condoms are for single use only.
  • There are different sized condoms so find the right size for you.
  • If in a group sex situation, then use a new condom for every new partner.
  • If using sex toys, then put a new condom on the toy anytime it is going from one playmate to another.
Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)

One of the ways that you can prevent HIV is by accessing Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP).

PEP is a four-week course of anti-HIV treatment drugs you can take if you think you may have been exposed to HIV. PEP is usually accessed if you have had condomless sex with someone whose HIV status you don’t know, if you have shared injecting equipment or if the condom broke or slipped off during sex.  

PEP can, in most cases, stop HIV from establishing itself in the body and prevent you from becoming HIV-positive. For this to happen, the PEP treatment needs to begin within 72 hours of exposure to HIV, and taken correctly over the next 28 days.

If you are in Victoria you should contact the PEP INFOLINE on 1800 889 887 and if you are interstate check out www.getpep.info for more information.

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)

10 Things You Need to Know About PrEP

This video contains important information on PrEP including adherence, side effects and how to get started, and how to stop.

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is the most commonly used HIV prevention strategy by gay men. PrEP does not protect you against other STIs. 

There are different ways you can take PrEP, different ways you can access PrEP and different ways to start PrEP depending on your personal circumstance.

For more information about PrEP head to What Works  

Undetectable Viral Load (UVL)

There is some uncertainty amongst people when it comes to having sex without condoms with someone whose HIV status is different to theirs and the associated risk of contracting and/or transmitting HIV, especially if the HIV-positive partner has a low or undetectable viral load level. This section explains what viral load means and what the concept of an undetectable viral load (UVL) means in relation to HIV risk.

What is Viral Load?

Viral load refers to the amount of HIV circulating in the blood. To find out a person’s viral load, a doctor takes a sample of blood and sends it to a laboratory where a viral load test is conducted.

When the result comes back, viral load is indicated as a number. The number indicates the amount of viral copies per millilitre of blood (written as copies/ml). Viral load can range from below 20 to over one million copies/ml.

In layman’s terms, viral load refers to the amount of virus that is in the HIV-positive persons’ body.

What does undetectable mean?

An undetectable viral load level is when the level of the virus in the body is reduced to a point that it cannot be detected by current tests. This does not mean that the body is free or cured of HIV, only that there is less than the test can detect.

In fact, all HIV positive people with an undetectable viral load still have HIV in their blood, as well as in blood cells, tissue and other bodily fluids. HIV-positive people on sustained anti-HIV treatment regimens are commonly able to maintain their viral load at low or undetectable levels.

Viral Load and not using condoms

The current research has indicated that if the HIV-positive partner has a sustained undetectable viral load level and is on effective treatment, their ability to transmit HIV to the negative partner is eliminated during sex without condoms.

How do we know it works?

Three large-scale studies looked at couples where one partner was HIV positive and using treatment, and the other was HIV negative. The results identified zero HIV transmissions between partners in the studies. Each of the studies included same-sex male couples with one study exclusively focusing on this group. After 140,000 acts of condomless sex, there were zero HIV transmissions.

The body of evidence indicates that using an undetectable viral load level as a strategy is the most effective way to prevent HIV transmission.