Finding out you or someone you know is HIV positive can be a scary thing. When left untreated, this virus attacks your body’s immune system, reducing the number of CD4 cells, and leaving you vulnerable to infections and certain cancers. Its final stage is when HIV becomes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
An HIV diagnosis once meant constant pain, suffering, and illness that ended with abrupt death. With today’s medical advances, however, that negative outlook is no longer the case. Now, if you are diagnosed as HIV positive before the virus has advanced and you take your antiretroviral medications every day, you can live a long and healthy life. 
Despite the increased quality of life with HIV, you should still be informed about how to prevent contracting this virus. HIV can be transmitted via bodily fluids like: blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, vaginal and rectal fluid, and breast milk.  The key to preventing HIV infection is in avoiding these fluids. Take a look below at some the precautions you can take to avoid HIV infection.
How to Prevent HIV
The first step in preventing HIV is finding out if you already have it. Find an HIV testing site. If you are HIV positive, it’s important to start treatment as soon as possible to stay healthy and to prevent spreading it to others.
Take Antiretroviral Medication if HIV Positive and Pregnant
It is particularly important to get tested if you are pregnant. An HIV positive, pregnant woman could pass the virus along to her fetus. Approximately 35 percent of babies born to HIV positive women contract the disease. Taking antiretroviral medications can significantly reduce this risk to around 4 percent.
Once the baby is born, the mother should give only baby formula or breast milk from a non-infected woman. This is because HIV can be transmitted via breast milk as well. 
If you are sexually active, use latex condoms. This prevents coming into contact with both semen and vaginal fluids. Not only are they effective at preventing the spread of HIV, but also unwanted pregnancies and other sexually transmitted infections and diseases. Make sure to read the instructions carefully to ensure that you or your partner are correctly using the condom. It is important to remember to put on a condom before any body contact is made. 
Practice Abstinence or Monogamy
The only sure way to prevent sexually spread HIV is to practice abstinence, which is avoiding all types of sexual activity. If this is not an option for you, consider a long-term monogamous relationship. Monogamy means having sexual and intimate relations with only one other person. Make sure your partner also gets tested for HIV. By limiting your number of sexual partners, you reduce the risk of coming into contact with somebody who is HIV positive. 
Avoid Using Drugs
Using drugs can be a dangerous activity for your overall health. If you are under the influence of drugs, you might be less likely to practice safe, protected sex. Some people are addicted to drugs and unable to avoid their use. If you decide to use drugs, do not inject with a needle. Injecting drugs with a needle increases your chance of sharing the needle with other people. This exposes you to blood, which could be infected with HIV. Look for a local needle-exchange program and consider talking to a professional about your drug-use problem. 
Don’t Touch Blood
This prevention method is particularly important for health care workers or people in emergency situations. Be extremely careful in the presence of blood. Make sure to wear latex gloves and cover any open sores you have. Protect your eyes and mouth with protective eye wear and face masks.
Remember, HIV is difficult to spread between people. To become infected, sexual fluids, blood, or breast milk must enter your body. Hugging or touching an HIV infected person does not put you at risk. Practice the prevention tips listed to avoid contracting the virus.
Featured photo credit: Sham Hardy via flickr.com
|||^||aids.gov: WHAT IS HIV/AIDS?|
|||^||aids.gov: HOW DO YOU GET HIV OR AIDS?|
|||^||aidsinfonet.org: Stopping the Spread of HIV|
|||^||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Prevention|
|||^||theaidsinstitute.org: How can HIV be prevented?|
|||^||Mayo Clinic: HIV/AIDS|