HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. AIDS is a series of opportunistic infections that occur when the immune system is weakened by the HIV virus. HIV is a blood-borne pathogen and is transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids, specifically, blood and semen. The most common routes of transmission are unprotected sex with an infected person and exposure to infected blood and blood products, where the blood comes in contact with broken skin. There is no cure for HIV or AIDS, so prevention is the best course of action.
Use barrier protection consistently and every time. Barrier methods, like condoms and dental dams, provide a large measure of protection from transmission by preventing direct contact with semen and blood. Condoms and dental dams should be made of latex. Natural materials, like lambskin, are porous and will not prevent the virus from passing through.
Reduce the number of sexual partners. The higher the number of partners, the greater the risk of transmission.
Get tested. With HIV, ignorance is not bliss. Sex is the most common method of HIV/AIDS transmission and it’s not possible to tell, at a glance, if someone is HIV positive. Testing confirms HIV status and reduces the risk of transmission. Testing, however, does not replace safe-sex practices, especially with new partners.
Use clean and sterile needles. Whether for medical or recreational purposes, intravenous drug users need to be certain that they do not share needles with anyone and that they use sterile needles each time.
Clearly label and properly dispose of sharps. Health care professionals are at great risk because they come into contact with bodily fluids and needles and other sharp objects. Sharps need to be handled carefully and immediately placed in specially marked, puncture-proof containers after use.
Use personal protective gear. Health care practitioners (and those who live with people with AIDS or are HIV positive) should use gloves, face masks and shields; and cover any areas of broken skin when handling blood or items that come in contact with an infected person's blood or fluids.