Protecting yourself from HIV

HIV and Sex

You can have sex with little or no risk of passing on or getting HIV. This is called safer sex.

Safer sex also helps protect you and your partner(s) from other STIs, such as gonorrhea and syphilis.


People can have HIV or other STIs without knowing it because these infections often do not cause symptoms. You could have HIV or another STI and not know it. Also, don’t assume that your partner know(s) whether they have HIV or any other STI. The only way to know for sure is to be tested.

To practise safer sex:

  • Use a latex or polyurethane condom correctly every time you have vaginal or anal sex.
  • Use only water-based or silicone-based lubricants. (Oil-based lubricants can make latex condoms break.)
  • Get tested for STIs regularly. Having an STI increases your risk of getting and passing on HIV.
  • Avoid sharing sex toys, and if you do, cover each one with a new condom before each use. It is also important to clean your toys between vaginal and anal use.
  • Use a condom or dental dam every time you have oral sex.
  • Choose forms of sexual stimulation that pose little or no risk for HIV, like masturbation or sensual massage.


HIV and Pregnancy

If you are HIV-positive and pregnant, proper HIV treatment and care can reduce the risk of your child being HIV-positive to less than 2 percent.

Talk with your healthcare provider to find out more.

If you are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, get tested for HIV. If you are HIV-positive, with proper treatment you can have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.


HIV and Drug Use

HIV can be passed on through shared needles and other drug equipment.

Sharing needles and other drug equipment is very risky.

Another virus called hepatitis C can also be spread when sharing drug equipment. Hepatitis C damages the liver. It is passed when the blood from someone who has hepatitis C gets into the bloodstream of another person.

Protect yourself and the people you do drugs with.

If you use drugs, there are things you can do to protect yourself and use drugs in a safer way. This is called harm reduction.

To practice safer drug use:

  • Use a clean new needle and syringe every time you use.
  • Use your own drug equipment (such as pipes, bills, straws, cookers, water, alcohol swabs) every time. Never share equipment, not even with your sex partner.
  • Get new needles and supplies from a harm reduction program, needle exchange or community health centre **HARP offers needle exchange services – please contact us for more information**
  • Get tested for HIV and hepatitis C. If you know that you have HIV or hepatitis C, you can take steps to protect yourself and others.

If you do not have access to a needle exchange:

  • As a last resort, your own needles can be cleaned before each time you use them, but it is still best not to share with other people. Cleaning means flushing the syringe twice with clean water, twice with bleach, and then twice with new water. Each flushing should last 30 seconds. This will kill HIV, but it will not protect you from hepatitis C.


For more information on Hepatitis C, visit the Hep Care Program website.

Read more:

What are HIV and AIDS?

Protecting yourself from HIV

Getting tested for HIV

Treating HIV


This information was provided by CATIE (Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange).

For more information, contact CATIE at 1.800.263.1638 or

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