How to prevent HIV

The first step in preventing HIV, hepatitis C, and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is to understand what you’re up against. Thankfully, in most cases, people living with HIV, Hep C, or other STIs live long, healthy lives. Getting any STI isn’t something that you should be ashamed but it also doesn’t have to be inevitable.

How to prevent HIV

There are a number of ways to prevent HIV transmission and at Harlem United we want you to make sure that you have all of the information you need to make informed choices about which options are right for you. It’s important to remember regardless of your HIV status, you have a role to play in preventing HIV transmission.


Condoms are one of the most effective ways to prevent HIV transmission. When used correctly and consistently (that means every time), they are nearly 100% effective. Condoms also prevent other STIs and they are very effective at preventing pregnancy too.

Free condoms are available at every Harlem United location. Stop by and pick some up for yourself. While you’re there, we’d love to talk with you to see if there are other ways that we can support you, but if you want to grab condoms and go, that’s OK too.


If you’re HIV+, you can help make sure that you don’t pass on the virus to others by staying connected with a doctor, keeping up with the treatment plan that you decide on with your doctor, and having an undetectable viral load. In the PARTNERS Study, couples where one partner was HIV- and the other was HIV+ with an undetectable viral load were followed for over two years. Not one HIV+ partner transmitted HIV to their negative partner.

If you think that you’re HIV-, it’s important to get tested regularly so that if you do become HIV+, you can see a doctor quickly and make a plan for your treatment. When you get connected to a doctor, you not only decrease your chance of passing on HIV, you set yourself up for better health over the longterm.

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis // PEP

Post-exposure prophylaxis, which is also called PEP, helps keep you from getting HIV if you do something that exposes you to HIV. A doctor or medical professional can you help you to determine if PEP is right for you, but here are activities which may put you at high risk

  • Having sex without a condom with an HIV+ person
  • Sharing needles and works with others while using drugs
  • If you’re a man, having sex without a condom with another man of unknown HIV status

Here’s the important thing about PEP: it must be taken with 72 hours of exposure to be effective, ideally with 24 hours. To get a prescription for PEP, talk to your doctor or got a clinic or emergency room right away.

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis // PrEP

Pre-exposure prophylaxis, which is also called PrEP, can also help you prevent HIV. PrEP works by taking one pill of Truvada every day and we recommend you go on PrEP if you are at risk for HIV. It’s best to talk with a health care professional about whether PrEP is right for you and we can help you decide if PrEP is right for you and—if it is—get you started on it to help keep you negative!

Learn more about PrEP