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Protect Yourself

What is sexual abstinence?
How effective are latex condoms in preventing the transmission of HIV?
How can injection drug users reduce their risk for HIV infection?
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What is sexual abstinence?
Sexual abstinence is a choice to refrain from sexual activity. This choice is usually made for a specific reason. The reason may be moral, religious, legal, or for health and safety. Sexual abstinence is the only 100% effective way to avoid the sexual transmission of HIV.
Everyone has a different definition of sexual abstinence. The most common meaning of sexual abstinence is not having sexual intercourse, vaginal or anal. Oral sex can be considered sexual activity and would therefore be included as an activity to stop if you make the decision to be abstinent.
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How effective are latex condoms in preventing the transmission of HIV?
Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are highly effective in preventing heterosexual sexual transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Research on the effectiveness of latex condoms in preventing heterosexual transmission is both comprehensive and conclusive. The ability of latex condoms to prevent transmission has been scientifically established in laboratory studies as well as in epidemiologic studies of uninfected persons at very high risk of infection because they were involved in sexual relationships with HIV-infected partners.

It should be noted that condom use cannot provide absolute protection against HIV. The surest way to avoid transmission of HIV is to abstain from sexual intercourse or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and you know is uninfected.
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How can injection drug users reduce their risk for HIV infection?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that people who inject drugs should be regularly counseled to:

  • Stop using and injecting drugs.  
  • Enter and complete substance abuse treatment, including relapse prevention.

For injection drug users who cannot or will not stop injecting drugs, the following steps may be taken to reduce personal and public health risks:

  • Never reuse or "share" syringes, water, or drug preparation equipment. 
  • Only use syringes obtained from a reliable source (such as pharmacies or needle exchange programs). 
  • Use a new, sterile syringe each time to prepare and inject drugs. 
  • If possible, use sterile water to prepare drugs; otherwise, use clean water from a reliable source (such as fresh tap water). 
  • Use a new or disinfected container ("cooker") and a new filter ("cotton") to prepare drugs. 
  • Clean the injection site with a new alcohol swab prior to injection. 
  • Safely dispose of syringes after one use. 
  • If new, sterile syringes and other drug preparation and injection equipment are not available, then previously used equipment should be boiled in water or disinfected with bleach before reuse.

Injection drug users and their sex partners also should take precautions, such as using condoms consistently and correctly, to reduce risks of sexual transmission of HIV.
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Persons who continue to inject drugs should periodically be tested for HIV. For information about HIV testing, call the West Virginia HIV/AIDS & STD Hotline at 1-800-642-8244.