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How do I Prevent HIV?

There are many simple steps we can all take to prevent HIV.

These steps work best when they are combined together. So if one fails or we forget to use it, then we can still rely on the others to help us stay HIV-negative.

Those of us who are HIV-positive can also take steps to make sure we don’t pass on HIV to others.

Using condom and condom-compatible lube when having sex

prev condomUsing condoms is your best defence against HIV and other STIs because they prevent the exchange of body fluids that might contain HIV (semen and blood).

Those of us who are HIV-positive should also use condoms when we have sex to help prevent our spreading HIV to others and to stop us getting other STIs. Find out more information about how to use a condom here.

Did you know that there are correct ways and incorrect ways of using condoms?

  • Never use more than one condom at the same time on your penis. You might think this makes you more protected. But it doesn’t. It actually means the condoms can break by rubbing up against each other
  • If you are having sex with more than one person then use a fresh condom every time you penetrate a new partner to avoid spreading HIV and other STIs
  • Find condoms that work best for you since they come in different shapes and sizes. Here are some places to find condoms
  • Always use condom-compatible lubricant with a condom, especially for anal sex. Don’t use Vaseline or spit. Find out more below

Water-based Lubricant, or lube, is a slippery substance that makes having anal sex much more comfortable and fun. It also stops your anus or penis from being hurt or damaged from too much friction.

Water-based lube, like KY jelly, is the best lube to use with condoms because lube made with from liquids will damage the condom. When using water-based lube, we should remember:

  • Cooking oil, baby oil, petroleum jelly (or ‘Vaseline’), and many hand lotions are all oil-based and shouldn’t be used because they will break your condom
  • Using saliva is not slippery enough to be used as lube as it evaporates quickly and can spread other STIs (although HIV is not contained in saliva)
  • Always put plenty of lube on the opening of the anus and on the condom after you’ve put it on before you start having sex. If the sex starts to feel dry or sticky, or carries on for a long time, use more lube to protect the condom and keep you and your partner happy

Using ART medication to prevent HIV

Did you know some of the same ART medications we use to treat people with HIV can also be used to prevent HIV-negative people from becoming infected?

Using these medications before being exposed to HIV is called PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) and using them in the 72 hours after being exposed to HIV is called PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis).


Maybe a condom broke during anal sex or you think you have been exposed to HIV in some other way. What can you do?  You may be able to access PEP from your local clinic. To work, PEP must be started before 72 hours (3 days) have passed after your exposure.

PEP tablets need to be taken every day for one month but may cause some side effects like nausea or dizziness that can make it harder to take the medication.  After one month you will have another HIV test to make sure you are still HIV-negative.


If you think you might be exposed to HIV, you can take PrEP to stay HIV-negative, even if the HIV virus enters your body.

You will need to visit a clinic that provides PrEP and meet with a healthcare provider before taking PrEP tablets.

Men need to take PrEP everyday for at least a week before it will protect them from HIV. Guys on PrEP will need to keep taking their tablet every day for it to keep them HIV-negative. It’s important you don’t miss a daily tablet if you still want to be protected by PrEP.

If you remember to take your PrEP tablet every day, PrEP will provide you an additional 92%-100% protection from HIV. That’s a lot!

PrEP may give you mild side effects that normally go away.

PrEP it does not protect against other STIs. Using PrEP and condoms together is best because condoms also protect you from other STIs.

When considering PrEP, remember:  

  • PrEP is an excellent way to protect against HIV infection especially for those of us who find it hard to use other prevention strategies
  • You must take PrEP daily for it to be effective. If you do not take your PrEP tablet every day, then it may not protect you from HIV
  • PrEP is scientifically proven to prevent HIV and supported by many medical agencies and governments around the world
  • PrEP is safe. Nine out of every ten people who take PrEP will have no side effects at all. If you do have side effects they will be mild and go away in time. Your doctor will also monitor you for any potential serious side effects and discontinue your PrEP if necessary
  • You do not have to take PrEP for the rest of your life. PrEP is not like HIV treatment even though it uses some of the same medication. You can take PrEP for a period of your life when you think you need it and then stop when you are no longer at risk of HIV
  • PrEP doesn’t protect against other STIs so should still be used in combination with condoms and regular testing
  • Even though PrEP is highly effective it is not available everywhere yet. Check out our list of service providers for more information

Changing your behaviour

prev condomThe truth is, changing our behaviour is really hard, especially when it comes to sex. Even if you’re not perfect, like most of us, here are some things you can do to lower your risk of becoming HIV-positive:

  1. Carry a condom and a small sachet of lube with you when you go out. You’ll be more likely to use them if you’ve got them with you.
  2. If you’re not using condoms when having sex, try to reduce the number of guys you have condom-less sex with. This is not perfect but will reduce your exposure if you and your partners test frequently. Find out more about testing here!
  3. Keep a lookout for STI symptoms. You should be aware of STI symptoms no matter how many partners you have. You can avoid having sex with someone if you notice a visible STI symptom. If you notice one on yourself, you should stop having sex until you get it tested and treated. Having an STI will increase your risk of getting HIV and other STIs. Remember some STIs don’t produce symptoms, so get tested regularly anyway.
  4. Drinking less alcohol may help you reduce your risk because drinking alcohol can make you make bad decisions about yourself, who you have sex with, and how you have sex.
  5. If you are using injection drugs with needles make sure to use clean needles and kits. Find out everything you need to know here.