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Originally Answered: What are the ways to prevent HIV and AIDS?
There are two different questions here.
1. TO PREVENT HIV INFECTION
You can reduce the likelihood of infection with HIV by reducing or eliminating exposure to the so-called “fluids of transmission” (blood, semen/pre-semen, vaginal fluids, breast milk). This can be done by:
being sexually abstinent or practicing only safe(r) sex *
being sexually monogamous with an HIV- partner who is also monogamous
avoiding intravenous drug use or ensuring that clean needles are used each time you must inject
practicing general safety protocols whenever you come into contact with fluids of transmission §
Unless you’re extraordinarily unlucky, it is, in theory, very simple to avoid HIV infection: assume everyone is HIV+ and protect yourself accordingly. In practice, of course, this can be difficult to do consistently over the course of a lifetime.
* Safer sex practices would include not only low-risk activities such as mutual masturbation but also higher risk activities such as vaginal and anal intercourse as long as appropriate protection, such as a condom, is used properly every time.
§ For instance, if your friend cuts himself badly, use latex gloves when cleaning up his blood. This protects you not only against HIV infection, but also against infection by any number of blood-borne diseases.
2. TO PREVENT AIDS
First and foremost, the best way to prevent AIDS is to prevent infection with HIV. However, that advice is too late for those of us who are already infected. How do we then prevent AIDS?
AIDS is not the inevitable fate of all HIV+ people and can be successfully avoided. AIDS is the result of either poorly managed HIV disease or of, for lack of a better way to describe it, simple bad luck.
Poor Management of HIV
If you are HIV positive, you should follow your doctor’s plan for you. This plan typically includes daily antiretroviral medication and lifestyle changes such as improvements to the diet and sleeping habits in order to boost the immune system and to counteract HIV’s effects on other bodily systems.
Many people who progress from HIV infection to AIDS do so because of poor management of their HIV disease. Perhaps they skip pills or simply don’t give their bodies adequate rest or the nutrition required for waging a lifelong viral war. Perhaps they never see their doctor and thus never notice a precipitous drop in T-cells or a sudden explosion of the viral load. ^
However, some people, though they “do everything right” as far as medication and lifestyle are concerned, nevertheless eventually begin to lose the fight against the virus and are ultimately diagnosed with AIDS. So it goes.
As one of my friends often reminds me, “AIDS is not for pussies”. Tasteless, perhaps, but true.
^ It should be stressed that “poor management” does not imply blame or lack of willpower or laziness or any other value-heavy concept. It simply means not following what we now know as the best path for avoiding progression from HIV infection to AIDS for whatever reason. Someone who doesn’t know he or she is HIV+, for instance, will not take the steps necessary to prevent this progression, even if that person is otherwise very responsible about his or her health. (It could be argued that a responsible person would have had him/herself tested for HIV at some point, but such questions are beyond the scope of this answer.)
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