Reduce your risk

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be STD smart

Anyone, at any age, can get a sexually transmitted disease. Virgins and people over 50 can get HIV or other STDs. Birth control pills, Viagra, and anti-herpes medications don't protect you. Learn more about safer sex and other ways to protect yourself and your partner.

Prevention is the best cure

Prevention pays off. If you have one STD, your risk of getting another — including HIV— greatly increases.

HIV infection in women is growing. Women account for more than a quarter of all new HIV infections nationally — with a higher rate of infection among African American and Hispanic women. Learn more about women and HIV.

If you're already HIV positive, practicing prevention is important. You won't just protect others from HIV, you'll help protect your own health. If you don't practice prevention, you might get a more harmful strain of HIV that's resistant to some HIV medications, including some you may be taking. You may also get an STD other than HIV. HIV-positive patients need ongoing medical care, including medications that fight HIV (called antiretroviral therapy) to stay healthy and help prevent the spread of HIV to others.

Protect yourself and your partner

Practice safer sex. Talk openly and honestly with your partner about Photo of a partypracticing safer sex and your risk for HIV. Be clear about what you will and won't do sexually. Also, respect what your partner will and won't do. Decide together what's right for both of you.

Latex condoms, vaginal dams, and dental dams can help protect you and your partner against HIV and many other STDs.* Use them with each sexual contact. Use water-based lubricants when needed and for anal sex.

Don't mix alcohol, drugs, and sex. Using mind-altering substances affects your judgment, especially about sexual risk.

If you're a parent, talk to your children about sex and STDs. Rates of STDs are high among teens and young adults. Talking about sex can be awkward, but the earlier you start the discussion, the better prepared your child will be to make safer decisions about it.

If you are prescribed medicine called "PrEP" to help prevent HIV, be sure to take it every day. If you miss a dose, please tell your doctor right away. 

Needle safely

If you use IV drugs, don't share needles, and use clean needles whenever possible. If you do share needles, clean them first with bleach and water.

Make sure sterile needles are being used if you get a tattoo or any body piercing. If you're accidentally stuck by a needle that may be contaminated, talk to your doctor about getting tested for HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

Related links

Pos or not?Kaiser Permanente is not responsible for the content or policies of external Internet sites, or mobile apps.
Think you can tell who has HIV just by looking? Play this game to see why it's important to practice safer sex.

*Condoms may help reduce the risk of spreading genital warts, but they don't protect the entire genital area against skin-to-skin contact. A vaccine called Gardasil protects against most types of HPV. The vaccine is recommended for both boys and girls 11 to 26 years old, with most getting it at age 11 or 12.

Reviewed by: Michael A. Horberg, MD, October 2018 

HIV care in your area

HIV testing saves lives

One-third of the people newly infected with HIV are under age 30Kaiser Permanente is not responsible for the content or policies of external Internet sites..  HIV expert Michael Horberg, MD, talks about why everyone should be tested.