When It Comes To HIV Prevention, There's More Than One Option
When most of us think about safe sex, we tend to think of one thing: condoms. For years, condoms have been the most common form of protection against the spread of HIV — and for good reason. Condoms are inexpensive, simple to use, and they are 98 percent effective at preventing HIV and other STIs when used properly. While condoms are still the number one way to prevent the spread of HIV, there are additional measures you can take in conjunction with safe sex practices.
By safely removing a male’s foreskin (most commonly at birth), voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) can reduce a man’s likelihood of transmitting HIV by roughly 50 percent. Both the World Health Organization and UNAIDS recommend circumcision for HIV prevention.
HIV Vaccine Trials
In 2009, RV144 (also known as the Thai prime-boost AIDS vaccine trial) became the first vaccine with any measureable success rate, when it proved to be 31 percent effective at protecting vaccinated participants from the spread of HIV. And just last year, another HIV vaccine efficacy trial, known as HVTN 702, began. Though there’s currently no HIV vaccine on the market, researchers, health professionals, and scientists continue to search for a safe and effective vaccine for HIV.
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)
For those at an increased risk of contracting HIV, PrEP can help keep an HIV-negative person from contracting the disease. The most common form of PrEP is Truvada — a pill that’s taken once a day. When used properly, PrEP is up to 95 percent effective at preventing HIV.
Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)
If an HIV-negative person is potentially exposed to HIV, administering antiretrovirals may prevent them from becoming infected. PEP is primarily used in emergency situations and must be administered within 72 hours after a possible exposure.
Needle Exchange Programs
Sexual activity isn’t the only way to contract HIV. Frequent drug users are more likely to contract HIV if they share needles. Over the past few years, needle and syringe programs have become more and more popular. The program provides sterile, unused needles to drug users through mobile health centers, needle “vending machines,” or pharmacies. Though studies have shown that greater access to clean needles would lower the spread of HIV, and many other blood-borne viruses, the program has been criticized by many politicians.