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Reducing Your Risk of AIDS

Don't Have Unprotected Sex

Having sex is the most likely way to get HIV infection. You can't tell if someone has HIV by looking at them. The only way to know is to be tested. If you have sex, take steps to protect yourself and your partner. Sex is any act that results in the exchange of bodily fluids.

To help lower your risk:

  • Know your status—Testing can be done through your doctor or a public health clinic. Some people use home test kits. Most offer testing without needing identification.
  • Use a latex condom and water-based lubricants.
  • Limit the number of people you have sex with.
  • Talk to your partner about their HIV status.
  • Find out what your partner's risks for HIV are.
  • Find out if your partners had any prior sexually transmitted infections (STI). These increase the risk of HIV.
  • Learn how to protect yourself if you have sex with someone who is HIV positive or has used injected drugs.

Being circumcised may also lessen a man's risk of HIV.

Don't Share Needles or Syringes

Using a needle or syringe contaminated with HIV infected blood cause you to have HIV. Don't share needles with anyone. Remember that people may not even be aware that they have HIV.

Medicines to Prevent Infection

If you are at high risk, talk to your doctor about taking medication to reduce your risk of infection. You may be considered high risk if you:

  • Inject IV drugs and share needles
  • Have a sexual partner who is HIV positive

If you have a known exposure to HIV, you may be given medicines to lower your risk.

For Healthcare Workers or Caregivers

HIV is spread through contact with infected blood and bodily fluids. When caring for patients:

  • Wear gloves and face masks during all procedures or when handling bodily fluids.
  • Carefully handle and properly dispose of needles.
  • Carefully follow universal precautions.
  • Cover all cuts and sores (you and the person who has HIV) with bandages.

Donate Your Own Blood

Blood products are screened for HIV. However, there is still a small risk because tests can't detect HIV right after you get it. To lower your risk of getting HIV through blood products, consider donating your own blood in case you need surgery later.


Guide for HIV/AIDS clinical care. National Institute of Health and Human Services website. Available at: Updated April 2014. Accessed September 17, 2018.

HIV/AIDS. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease website. Available at: Accessed September 17, 2018.

HIV prevention. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated December 7, 2016. Accessed September 17, 2018.

Postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) for HIV. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated August 5, 2016. Accessed September 17, 2018.

Preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated September 13, 2018. Accessed September 17, 2018.

Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated August 27, 2018. Accessed September 17, 2018.

Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board David L. Horn, MD, FACP  Last Updated: 12/9/2020