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How can I prevent myself or my child from getting HIV?

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HIV is spread only in certain ways and you cannot get it through everyday contact. You can reduce your risk if you:

  • Have sex only with your spouse or partner, and be sure that he or she only has sex with you.
  • Consistently use male latex or female polyurethane condoms if you have sex.
  • Do not share needles.

Unlike many other infections, like measles and polio, there is not yet a vaccine for HIV.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has more general information about how to prevent the spread of HIV.

Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission

Without any interventions, a newborn is at high risk of getting HIV from its infected mother. Specifically:

  • The risk is between 15% and 30% without breastfeeding.
  • The risk can go up to 45% if the mother breastfeeds her child.

Prevention strategies can reduce this risk to less than 2%. If you are a pregnant woman concerned about HIV, experts recommend that you:

  • Get an HIV test. If you know you have HIV, you can take steps to lower your baby's risk for infection.
  • If you have HIV, take anti-HIV drugs for yourself and your child. You should take anti-HIV drugs during pregnancy, labor, and birth, and your child should take them for the first weeks of life.
  • If you have HIV, avoid breastfeeding. HIV can pass from you to your child through your breast milk. If you live in the United States or another country with safe water, formula feeding is best for prevention of HIV.

The NICHD is heavily involved in finding ways to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Read about the research advances in this area through the links on the Publications and Resources page.

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Last Reviewed: 06/04/2013
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