HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is also mostly known as a sexually transmitted infection. If left untreated, HIV can be transmitted in several other ways, such as through direct blood-to-blood contact or even to newborns through breast milk.

The virus attacks the body’s immune cells that are necessary to fight diseases and bacteria. HIV that is untreated can progress into AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). If you belong to the LGBTQ community and engage in condom-less sex, the CDC advises that you may be at an increased risk of contracting HIV. Therefore, it’s important to know how to prevent the transmission of the virus.

Use Condoms
Sex is the most common way that the HIV virus can be transmitted. The virus lives in bodily fluids (e.g. vaginal fluids, semen, pre-ejaculatory fluid, rectal fluids, and blood); therefore, if you do not use condoms, you could be exposed to the virus, or even expose someone else to the virus if you are unknowingly living with HIV. Though you may not need condoms for contraception purposes, you do need them as a barrier for STIs.

Consider PrEP
The PrEP pill uses an HIV medication called Truvada to help HIV-negative people prevent infection. It is 92% effective and covered by most insurance plans. PrEP is a great option for those who are HIV-negative and who have sexual encounters with HIV-positive partners, or who engage in condom-less sex.

Do Not Share Needles
Intravenous drug use is the second most common way that the HIV virus is transmitted. If you are an IV drug user, do not share used needles with another person. Most cities offer needle exchange programs, so it might be a good option to research where you can get clean needles.

Avoid Exposing Others to Your Blood
Before being treated by another person for an injury that includes bleeding, let them know that you are living with HIV so that they can be mindful of any open wounds on their hands. Also, do not donate blood to people. And, if you are getting a tattoo, let the tattoo artist know to be extra mindful about cleaning the needle.

Know Where You Can Turn to For Help
If you have HIV, getting treated is key to living a long, healthy, and happy life. As part of the LGBTQ community, you can utilize our services at CIRCLE CARE Center. We are a primary care clinic in Southern Connecticut servicing the LGBTQ population. We provide services to take care of physical and mental health, including substance abuse. Contact us at CIRCLE CARE Center today for more information, or to schedule an appointment. 203.852.9525 www.CIRCLECARECenter.org