How do you prevent HIV?

" There are more ways then ever before to prevent HIV "

For nearly 40 years condoms were the main way that HIV could be prevented during sex, and they still remain a cornerstone of HIV prevention today.

However, over time new biomedical strategies have been developed that you can use to provide yourself and your partners with protection against HIV.  

Each person needs to find out what strategy works for them.  

The HIV prevention toolkit now includes: Condoms, Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and Undetectable Viral Load (UVL)

a pink condomAn icon of a PEP pillan icon of a PrEP Pill


Condoms are a useful way of preventing HIV during sex and they are the only HIV prevention strategy that offers protection against other STIs. Using condoms correctly is very important to ensure best possible protection. The following tips will reduce the chances of condoms breaking or slipping off:

  • Check the date on the packet and never use condoms that are past their used by date
  • Be careful opening the packet, especially if you are using your teeth, as you don’t want to rip the condom
  • Hold the teat part of the condom whilst squeezing the air out of it and then place it on the head of the erect penis
  • Unroll the condom to the base of the penis without stretching it
  • Use lubrication to help prevent tearing, especially if engaging in anal sex
  • After ejaculation, hold onto the condom at the base of the cock when pulling out and gently slide the condom off your cock.  

Remember - Condoms are for single use only.

  • There are different sized condoms so find the right size for you.
  • If in a group sex situation, use a new condom for every new partner.
  • If using sex toys, put a new condom on the toy anytime it is going from one person to another.

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis - PEP

One of the ways that you can prevent HIV is by accessing Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP).

PEP is a four-week course of anti-HIV medication you can take if you think you may have been exposed to HIV. PEP is usually accessed if you have had condomless sex with someone whose HIV status you don’t know, if you have shared injecting equipment or if the condom broke or slipped off during sex.

PEP can stop HIV from establishing itself in the body and prevent you from becoming HIV-positive. For this to happen, the PEP treatment needs to begin within 72 hours of exposure to HIV, ideally as soon as possible after potential exposure and be taken correctly over the next 28 days.

If you are in Victoria you should contact the PEP INFOLINE on 1800 889 887, and if you are interstate check out for more information on where you can access it.

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis - PrEP

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is the most commonly used HIV prevention strategy by gay men but it does not protect you against other STIs.  

PrEP prevents HIV by creating a biological barrier against HIV inside your body.

PrEP should always be taken as directed for it to provide you with the best protection against HIV.  

As there are different ways PrEP can be taken, different ways you access the medication and different ways to start taking it, it is best to speak with a health care professional on how PrEP can best work for you.  

For more information about PrEP head to What Works.

Undetectable Viral Load

What is Viral Load?

Viral load refers to the amount of HIV circulating in the blood. To find out a person’s viral load, a doctor takes a sample of blood and sends it to a laboratory where a viral load test is conducted. When the result comes back, viral load is indicated as a number. The number indicates the amount of viral copies per millilitre of blood (written as copies/ml). Viral load can range from below 20 to over one million copies/ml.

In layman’s terms, viral load refers to the amount of virus that is circulating in the HIV-positive persons’ body.

What does undetectable mean?

An undetectable viral load level is when the level of the virus in the body is reduced to a point so low that it cannot be detected by current tests. This does not mean that the body is free or cured of HIV, only that there is less HIV in the body than the test can detect.

All HIV positive people with an undetectable viral load still have HIV in their blood, as well as in blood cells, body tissue and other bodily fluids. HIV-positive people on sustained anti-HIV treatment regimens are commonly able to maintain their viral load at low or undetectable levels.

Viral Load and not using condoms

The current research has indicated that if the HIV-positive partner has a sustained undetectable viral load level and is on effective treatment, their ability to transmit HIV to the negative partner is eliminated during sex without condoms.

However, having an undetectable viral load doesn’t prevent you from getting or passing on other STIs.

How do we know it works?

Three large-scale studies looked at couples where one partner was HIV positive and using treatment, and the other was HIV negative. The results identified zero HIV transmissions between partners in the studies. Each of the studies included same-sex male couples with one study exclusively focusing on this group. After 140,000 acts of condomless sex, there were zero HIV transmissions linked to a person with an undetectable viral load.  

Currently, An undetectable viral load is the most effective HIV prevention strategy.