HIV is spread through contact with the blood, semen, vaginal fluid, or breast milk of a person infected with HIV. The spread of HIV from person to person is called HIV transmission.
The most common way to get HIV is by having sex without using a condom with a person who has HIV. During unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal sex, HIV can enter the opening to the penis or the lining of the vagina, mouth, anus, or rectum. It can also enter through cuts and sores in the mouth or on the skin.
Anybody can get HIV, but you can take steps to protect yourself from HIV infection. Information about barrier products used to prevent the transmission of HIV are reference below.
Diaphragm or cervical cap—The diaphragm and cervical cap are silicone cups that are used with a special gel or cream called spermicide (a substance that kills sperm). The diaphragm or cervical cap is inserted into the vagina and over the cervix to keep sperm from entering the uterus, meeting with and fertilizing an egg. With typical use, 12 out of 100 women who use a diaphragm and 17 to 23 out of 100 women who use a cervical cap may become pregnant each year.
Male condom—A male condom keeps sperm from getting into a woman’s body. Latex condoms, the most common type, help prevent pregnancy, and HIV and other STDs, as do the newer synthetic condoms. “Natural” or “lambskin” condoms also help prevent pregnancy, but may not provide protection against STDs, including HIV. Typical use failure rate: 18%.
Female (universal) condom—The (universal) female condom helps keeps sperm from getting into the body. It is packaged with a lubricant and is available at drug stores. It can be inserted up to eight hours before sexual intercourse. Typical use failure rate: 21%, and also may help prevent STDs.
Spermicides—These products work by killing sperm and come in several forms—foam, gel, cream, film, suppository, or tablet. They are placed in the vagina no more than one hour before intercourse. You leave them in place at least six to eight hours after intercourse. You can use a spermicide in addition to a male condom, diaphragm, or cervical cap. They can be purchased at drug stores. Typical use failure rate: 28%.
Condoms can only be used once. You can buy condoms, spermicides and personal lubricants at many stores, including pharmacies, grocery, and discount stores. Health departments, clinics, and student health centers may offer free or low-cost condoms as well. Do not use oil-based lubricants such as massage oils, baby oil, lotions, or petroleum jelly with latex condoms. They will weaken the condom, causing it to tear or break.