Although HIV is treatable, experts still advise using condoms during sexual intercourse to prevent HIV. Once a person is HIV positive, transferring the virus to a person can be prevented by making sure you have an undetectable viral status, which can be difficult without the guidance of a health care provider. Adhering to drug schedules, taking the medication regularly, and managing side effects can be some of the limiting factors in achieving undetectable viral loads with medication. Condoms provide additional protection in such scenarios with the added benefit of protection against other STDs as well.
HOW DO CONDOMS PROTECT AGAINST HIV?
HIV is transmitted when body fluids come into contact with each other. Therefore, the risk of transmission is high during intercourse of all kinds. There are various types of condoms used to prevent bodily fluids from coming together: oral, vaginal and penile condoms. Condoms, both external and internal, help decrease the chance of HIV transmission by creating a physical barrier between the skins of two people so that the likelihood of bodily fluid exchange is decreased down to a significant level. Condoms are consistent with significantly reducing the chance of contracting HIV as long as they are used properly and regularly.
Condoms are made of a lot of different materials. Some of these materials include latex, nitrile, and polyurethane. These materials do not allow HIV to pass through them and prevent transmission of the virus. Latex is the main material that prevents the small virus that causes HIV to pass through. It is important to note that some condoms are made of lamb intestines. These natural-made condoms are not ideal when it comes to HIV prevention. Lamb skin condoms are primarily used for pregnancy prevention and are not recommended by the CDC to prevent STDs/STIs at this time.
WHY USE CONDOMS WHEN HIV IS TREATABLE?
Although medication helps manage HIV efficiently, experts believe that using a condom to prevent HIV infection, along with medication, is ideal. However, the question remains: "why would you need to use condoms if your HIV is under control?".
For starters, condoms don't just prevent HIV transmission. Condoms not only prevent pregnancy but also help protect against STDs as well. People with HIV are especially prone to acquiring other sexually transmitted infections as well. Having an undetectable viral load may prevent your partners from the HIV that you're carrying but won't protect you from the STDs that they might be carrying.
Another reason to use condoms to prevent HIV transmission along with medication is the added layer of protection. Studies have found that using condoms with antiretroviral therapy for HIV provides statistically enhanced protection against the virus. Condoms alone can prevent HIV infections in up to 70% of the people who aren't taking concurrent medical therapy.
WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO TO PREVENT HIV TRANSMISSION IF YOU ARE HIV REACTIVE OR NONREACTIVE?
Taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) and using condoms are great ways to minimize HIV spread. However, there are many more ways to prevent HIV transmission that are equally convenient and simple, if not more:
If You Are HIV Reactive:
- Taking ART and using condoms are the primary ways to reduce the chances of passing on the virus to someone else.
- Making sure your partner is on a PrEP regimen and being followed by a healthcare provider
- Using condoms in all types of sexual encounters, each time.
- Do not share needles, personal hygiene kits such as razors
- Continue to see your Healthcare provider as scheduled
HIV Nonreactive Patients:
- Begin PrEP therapy if you are not consistent with condom use each time you have sexual contact
- Avoid unlicensed tattoo parlors, medical/surgical sites who compromise in keeping instruments sterile.
- Continue to go for regular STD/STI screening and testing sites every 6 months.