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Using a condom during sex, including oral and anal sex, is the best way to prevent getting sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
Avoid using an oil-based lubricant, such as Vaseline or baby oil, because this can weaken the condom and increase the chances of it splitting. Water-based lubricants such as K-Y Jelly are preferred, and can be bought at most supermarkets or pharmacists.
A dental dam - which is a rectangular piece of latex that fits in your mouth - can also be used during oral sex to prevent the spread of infection. You should always clean sex toys after each use, and also after using them on different parts of the body. They should also be cleaned in between being used by one partner and the other.
It is important to continue to practice safe sex even if you and your sexual partner both have HIV. This is because it is possible to expose yourself to a new strain of the virus that your anti-HIV medicine will not be able to control.
Knowingly infecting somebody with HIV is a criminal offence.
Intravenous drug use
If you inject drugs, avoid sharing needles because it could expose you to HIV, as well as other blood-borne viruses, such as hepatitis C.
Many local authorities and pharmacies offer needle exchange programmes, where used needles can be exchanged for clean ones.
If you are a heroin user, you should consider enrolling on a methadone programme. Methadone can be taken as a liquid, so it reduces the risk of you getting HIV.
Your GP or drug counsellor should be able to advise you about both needle exchange programmes and methadone programmes.
If you have HIV, you should take extra precautions to prevent exposure to infection. You should also take steps to boost your immune system. The advice below explains what steps you can take.
- Avoid smoking - this will weaken your immune system.
- Do not use illegal drugs - these also weaken your immune system and could make your anti-HIV medicines less effective.
- Make sure that your immunisations are up to date - your GP or HIV clinic will be able to advise you.
- Eat a healthy diet - this will boost your immune system.
- Take regular exercise - this will boost both your immune system and your mood.
- Be careful around animals - as they can be a source of parasitic infection. You should avoid coming into contact with cat litter or animal faeces. Wear latex gloves if you need to clean your pet or dispose of their droppings.
- Wash your hands regularly - particularly after going to the toilet, before and after preparing food, and after spending time in crowded places.
The information provided on this website (including any NHS Choices medical information) is for use as information or for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical care by a qualified doctor or other qualified healthcare professional. We do not warrant that any information included within this site will meet your health or medical requirements. This Embarrassing Bodies site does not provide any medical or diagnostic services so you should always check with a health professional if you have any concerns about your health.