Prevention of HIV and AIDS

Learn how the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) can be prevented.

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Prevention methods

There is no vaccine to protect against HIV, but there are effective ways to prevent HIV infection. If you have HIV infection, there is treatment available that can prevent or delay the progression of HIV to AIDS and prevent the virus from being transmitted to others.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)

In some circumstances, individuals without HIV infection who may be engaging in higher risk behaviour.  These individuals can take a pill, called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), to reduce the risk of HIV infection. PrEP should be taken daily and be used in combination with other prevention tools (such as condoms). Consult your health care provider for more information and to see if PrEP is right for you.

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)

If you think you may have been exposed to HIV, taking post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) can potentially reduce the risk of HIV infection. PEP is a 4-week drug treatment that includes two or three pills taken daily.

PEP should be taken as soon as possible after you have been exposed to HIV. It may be less effective if initiated more than 72 hours after exposure.

If you think you have been exposed to HIV, you should:

  • see a health care provider immediately to find out if treatment is right for you
  • start treatment within 72 hours of a possible exposure if your health care provider recommends treatment

Sexual activity

All sexual contact has some risk. You can reduce the risk of getting and/or spreading HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) by practising safer sex. Practising safe sex is more than just wearing the proper protection. It includes:

  • getting tested regularly for (STIs)
    • having an STI increases your risk of getting and/or spreading HIV
  • discussing prevention with your sex partner(s)
  • discussing with your partner(s) what sexual contact you will have
  • using condoms and other barriers safely
  • having fewer sex partners to reduce potential exposure to HIV and other STIs
  • if you are HIV positive, maintaining viral suppression through antiretroviral drugs

Using injection drugs

If you inject drugs, you can reduce the risk of getting and spreading HIV by following safe injection practices. These include:

  • avoiding sharing drug injection equipment, such as:
    • needles
    • syringes
    • cookers
    • spoons
    • water
    • filters
  • using new equipment every time you inject

You can also consider getting help by signing up for a substance use treatment program like methadone therapy or opioids substitution therapy. Such a program can help you reduce your:

  • substance dependence
  • frequency of injection and other risk behaviours, and thereby reduce your risk of getting and spreading HIV and other  sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections

Pregnancy and childbirth

If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, you and your partner should get tested for HIV and other STIs.
If you have HIV, you can prevent passing HIV to your baby by:

  • taking antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy
  • avoiding breastfeeding after you give birth

Tattooing, body piercings, acupuncture and other procedures

If you are getting a tattoo, body piercing, electrolysis or acupuncture, you can avoid getting and/or spreading HIV by ensuring:

Medical tourism

If you are travelling to another country to get medical care, ensure:

  • the blood and blood products used in the facility are screened for HIV and other blood borne infections
  • the facility follows proper practices to control infection (PDF)

Workplace exposure

If your job exposes you to contaminated blood or other bodily fluids, you may be at risk for HIV infection.
You can reduce your risk by following routine practices for controlling infection in your workplace.

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