How to Protect Yourself Against HIV

Think HIV isn’t a big deal anymore? Think again. More than 37,000 people were newly infected with HIV in the U.S. in 2017. While it’s not as deadly as it once was, HIV is still incredibly dangerous. If you get HIV, you’ll have to treat it for the rest of your life. 

Getting regularly tested for HIV is important, especially if you’re in any at-risk groups. You should also educate yourself about the best ways to defend against the virus, like taking PrEP medication to reduce the risk of infection. In addition to making it easy to get a prescription for PrEP online, Nurx offers this helpful guide with tips on how to protect against HIV.

Who Has the Highest Risk for HIV?

Certain groups of people are disproportionately affected by HIV due to their sex, lifestyle, and location. Most new HIV infections today occur among men who have sex with other men; this persists across all races and ethnicities. After that, the next group that’s most at risk are straight black women. Overall, African-Americans are the population that is most heavily affected by new HIV infections. Men and women who inject drugs are also at a greater risk. 

In terms of geography, the highest number of new HIV infections occurs in the South at a rate of 18.5 per 100,000 people. The region with the second-most new infections is the Northeast, followed by the West and the Midwest. 

Urban areas are where most HIV infections take place. As of 2014, the cities with the most HIV cases per 100,000 people were Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana; Jackson, Mississippi; and Miami and Orlando, Florida.

How to Have Safer Sex

Image via Flickr by spi516

In the U.S., HIV is often spread through unprotected sex. That’s why the best way to protect against the virus is to practice safe sex each and every time you have intercourse. Follow these guidelines to reduce your risk of getting HIV:

  • Use condoms. HIV can be transmitted through semen, vaginal secretions, menstrual blood, and rectal mucosa, so male or female condoms should be used when you have vaginal or anal intercourse. 
  • Apply lube. Sexual lubricants make penetration easier, which helps to prevent broken condoms and tissue damage, both of which increase the risk of HIV transmission.
  • Use dental dams during oral sex. They provide a protective barrier that reduces your risk of getting HIV.
  • Put on latex gloves for manual penetration. Wearing these gloves keeps cuts and sores from being exposed and prevents sharp nails from causing tissue damage.
  • Always disinfect sex toys after using them. You can also use a condom on a toy if necessary.
  • Get tested regularly, especially if you have multiple partners. In addition to testing for HIV, it’s important to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) since sores caused by certain infections can increase the risk of HIV transmission.
  • Remember that hormonal contraceptives like the birth control pill, ring, and patch do not protect against STIs or HIV. Be sure to practice safer sex even if you’re on hormonal birth control.

Other Ways to Prevent HIV Transmission

Unprotected sex isn’t the only way HIV is transmitted. Dirty needles are also the cause of many HIV infections. If you inject drugs, it’s important to take precautions to reduce your risk. You should never share needles and always dispose of used needles carefully. If you are getting a piercing or a tattoo, make sure that a clean, sterilized needle is used.

You can also change some of your sexual habits in order to reduce your risk of getting HIV. Consider limiting the number of people you have sex with since the more partners you have, the more likely you are to have a partner with HIV. Alternatively, you can use the safe sex tips above with every partner and make sure you and your partner are both tested before you have sex. 

All About PrEP

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a recent development in HIV prevention. This medication is used by people who do not have HIV but are at a higher risk for becoming infected. When PrEP is taken as prescribed, it can reduce the risk of getting HIV from sex by up to 99 percent.. In addition, it reduces the risk of infection among people who inject drugs by more than 70 percent. When you use the tips for HIV prevention described above in addition to taking PrEP, your risk decreases even further.

In order to take PrEP, you must be an HIV-negative adult. You might be a good candidate for PrEP if you fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • In an ongoing monogamous sexual relationship with an HIV-positive partner
  • Having sex with one or more partners with an unknown HIV status
  • Have had vaginal or anal sex without a condom in the past six months
  • Diagnosed with gonorrhea, chlamydia, or syphilis in the past six months
  • Inject drugs not prescribed by a medical provider
  • Have shared needles or been in drug treatment in the past six months

Nurx can help you get a prescription for PrEP. If you’re approved for the medication, you’ll need to take it every day and commit to getting retested for HIV every three months. 

Some people experience minor side effects like nausea when they take this medication. There are no serious or life-threatening side effects reported with PrEP. 

While the chances of survival with HIV are significantly higher today than they were a few decades ago, it’s still important to take steps to prevent infection. In addition to using the tips described here, get in touch with us at Nurx to learn if you’re a good candidate for getting an online prescription for PrEP.

For more information and to signup, visit www.nurx.com and follow us @nurxapp on Twitter and Instagram.