Protecting Yourself From HIV
A well-known risk of having sex is the chance of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) occurring. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is an STI most people hope to avoid. However, HIV numbers continue to rise among certain groups, like teens, men who have sex with men (MSM), and minorities. That means there’s still work to do to stop the spread of HIV. Stakeholders in the fight to end the HIV epidemic encourage the consistent use of condoms during sex. When used correctly, condoms can prevent the spread of infections like HIV.
How effective are condoms?
Usually made of very thin latex, condoms provide a protective barrier during all forms of intercourse. Not only are condoms used for contraceptive purposes, but the simple invention can also prevent STIs like HIV. Statistics show that condoms are over 90% effective in preventing the spread of HIV during sex. Since HIV is transferred via blood and bodily fluids, as long as the condom is not damaged, the users should feel relatively safe.
Other forms of protection
While complete protection is not guaranteed, the risk of contracting HIV is significantly higher with unprotected sex. At a minimum, teens, minorities, and other groups who are at risk should insist on condom use during all sexual encounters. However, there are several ways to go the extra mile so all parties can feel safe. Open communication, medication, and testing before having fun can promote healthy practices and help end the HIV pandemic.
Communication is key
A deep conversation before sex should be a priority for all people planning to have intercourse. As a start, couples should disclose any known HIV or STI status. This information ensures that every individual stays safe during sex. More importantly, condom use should be a priority. Communication can also help at-risk groups make better decisions, like abstaining from sex or avoiding risky sexual practices.
Use as directed
Condoms are only effective when used correctly. Follow the instructions for internal and external condom use to stay safe. The condom should be worn correctly, be the correct size, and not be expired. Doctors recommend condom use for all forms of sex and a water-based lubricant to prevent breakage. Couples should always check for breaks or leaking during sex and use a new condom each time. Following these rules is the best way to get the maximum benefit from condom use.
There are some individuals who have a higher risk of contracting HIV than others. Typical examples are people identifying as MSM, those with a partner who has HIV, and those who consistently have unprotected sex. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) can provide couples, especially at-risk groups, with added protection. PrEP is a drug that lowers the risk of contracting HIV through sex or needle use. Studies show that PrEP has an almost 99% success rate when used correctly. Couples can use PrEP on-demand, with pills taken 24 hours before and after sex or continually for maximum protection.
Frequent STI testing can help couples feel safer during sex. HIV tests are easily accessible and effective in providing information beforehand to make better decisions. Rapid testing, for instance, can confirm a couple’s status in less than 30 minutes. Proper education about STIs can keep sex a safe and enjoyable experience.
Condoms are just the start
Proper condom use alone has a high success rate and can prevent the spread of STIs and HIV. However, the condom’s effectiveness is ultimately still down to the user. Although condoms are fantastic medical tools, additional steps can help to decrease HIV infections further.