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If my partner is HIV positive, what can I do to protect myself from getting it?

Getting tested for STIs (including HIV) regularly, even if you do not have any symptoms. Having an STI can increase your chances of getting HIV.

Condoms are an excellent way to protect you from HIV. If a condom is used properly, does not break or slip off, it is unlikely that you will get HIV from having sex with a partner who is HIV positive.

There are a few ways to increase the chances that condoms protect you:

  • Ensure the condom has not expired by checking the expiry date; do not use expired condoms
  • Be careful not to tear the condom when taking it out of the packet
  • Use a water-or silicone-based lubricant to lower the chances the condom will break

Also, it is important to put the condom on correctly before you have genital contact. Check out our page on ‘Condoms’ for more information.

HIV can also be passed through sharing drug equipment, such as needs needles. Using new needles and other drug equipment is recommended every time you use drugs to prevent HIV and other infections. Have a look at our ‘Alcohol, drugs and sex’ page to learn more about how to keep yourself safe.

HIV is managed with daily prescription medication called antiretroviral therapy (ART). If you partner is taking ART as directed, this will lower the amount of virus in their body. This is called being “undetectable”. People know they are undetectable by having blood tests to monitor their amount of HIV in their body. If someone is undetectable (viral load under 200 copies/mL), they cannot transmit HIV through sex.

In BC, there are free medications you can take if a condom breaks or you do not use a condom. This medication is called “non-occupational exposure post-exposure prophylaxis (nPEP)”. nPEP work best if taken as soon as possible within 72 hours after exposure to HIV. If you think there is a chance you have been exposed to HIV, then it is important to talk with a health care provider who knows about HIV treatment to see if this is an option. nPEP is also available in all hospital emergency rooms, provincial prisons and some specific clinics. For more information about nPEP, have a look at our ‘Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)’ page. 

People who have a higher chance of getting HIV may be eligible to take daily ART medication to prevent HIV transmission from occurring; this is called “pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)”. Research has show, when PrEP is used properly; it is more than 90% effective in preventing HIV. Note: PrEP does not protect you from other STI; use of condoms and barrier methods are still recommended even while taking PrEP. To learn more about PrEP, have a look at our ‘Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)’ and ‘HIV PrEP’ pages.