How can HIV infection be prevented?
Sexual transmission of HIV can be prevented by:
What is 'safer' sex?
No sexual act is 100% safe.
Safer sex involves taking precautions that decrease the potential of transmitting or acquiring sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, while having sex. Using condoms correctly and consistently during sex is considered safer sex.
How effective are condoms in preventing HIV?
Quality assured condoms are the only products currently available to protect against sexual infection by HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). When used properly, condoms are a proven and effective means of preventing HIV infection in women and men.
However, no protective method is 100% effective, and condom use cannot guarantee absolute protection against any STI. In order to achieve the protective effect of condoms, they must be used correctly and consistently. Incorrect use can lead to condom slippage or breakage, thus diminishing their protective effect.
How can injecting drug users reduce their risk of contracting HIV?
For injecting drug users, certain steps can be taken to reduce personal and public health risks:
How can mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) be prevented?
Transmission of HIV from an infected mother can occur during pregnancy, during labour or after delivery through breastfeeding. In the absence of any intervention, an estimated 15-30% of mothers with HIV infection will transmit the infection during pregnancy and delivery.
Breastfeeding increases the risk of transmission by 10-15%. This risk depends on clinical factors and may vary according to the pattern and duration of breastfeeding.
Mother-to-child transmission can be reduced by the following:
It is clear that short-term antiretroviral preventative treatment is an effective and feasible method of preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. When combined with infant-feeding counseling and support, and the use of safer infant-feeding methods, it can halve the risk of infant infection.
ARV regimens are mainly based on the use of nevirapine or zidovudine. Nevirapine is administered in one dose to the mother at delivery, and in one dose to the child within 72 hours of birth. Zidovudine has been shown to decrease the risk of transmission when administered to the mother during the last six months of pregnancy and intravenously during labour and to the baby for six weeks after birth. Even if zidovudine is administered later in pregnancy, or around the time of delivery, the risk of transmission can be halved.
Overall, the efficacy of the various drug regimens is diminished if babies continue to be exposed to HIV through breastfeeding.
Antiretroviral drugs should only be taken under medical supervision.
A Caesarian section is a surgical procedure whereby the baby is delivered through an incision in the mother's abdominal wall and uterus. Of the babies who are infected through mother-to-child transmission, it is believed that about two-thirds are infected during pregnancy and around the time of delivery. Vaginal deliveries are more likely to increase the risk of mother-to-child transmission, while elective Caesarian sections have been shown to reduce the risk. However, the potential benefits have to be balanced against the risk to the mother.
The risk of transmission from mother to child is increased when the child is breastfed. Although breast milk is considered the best nutrition for a child, it is recommended that HIV-positive mothers replace breast milk with infant formula to reduce the risk of transmission to the child. However, this is advisable only if it covers the child's nutritional requirements, if it can be prepared under hygienic conditions, and if it is affordable for the families.
What procedures should health care workers follow to prevent transmission in health-care settings?
Health care workers should follow Universal Precautions. Universal Precautions are infection control guidelines, developed to protect health workers and their patients from exposure to diseases spread by blood and certain body fluids.
Universal Precautions include:
In addition, it is recommended that all health care workers take precautions to prevent injuries caused by needles, scalpels, and other sharp instruments or devices. In accordance with universal precautions, blood and body fluids from all persons are considered as infected with HIV, regardless of the known or supposed status of the person.
What should you do if you think you have exposed yourself to HIV?
If you think you've been exposed to HIV, you should get counseling and testing for HIV. Precautions should be taken to prevent to spread of HIV to others, in case you are infected with HIV.
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