Frequently asked questions

Question 1

Can I tell someone has HIV just by looking at them?

No. A person living with HIV may look healthy and feel good just like you. A blood test is the only way a person can find out if they are living with HIV..

Question 2

Does HIV only affect certain risk groups like gay men or people who use drugs?

No. Anyone who has unprotected sex with a person living with HIV, who is not on treatment with a suppressed viral load, can become HIV positive. Similarly if HIV is present and someone shares injecting equipment with a person living with HIV, or has a transfusion with contaminated blood they can become HIV positive. Infants can become HIV positive from their mothers during pregnancy, during labour or after delivery through breastfeeding. Women and children are disproportionally affected by HIV globally.

Question 3

How can you limit your risk of getting HIV through sex?

  • When it comes to sex, mutual responsibility is the key for everyone.
  • Use male or female condoms with lubrication correctly each time you have sex.
  • Regularly test for HIV and other sexually transmissible infections (STI) if you have casual sex.
  • Ask your prospective partner what their HIV status is.
  • Reduce your risk by having fewer partners.
  • If your partner has HIV you may consider using PrEP – (see resource page) as an aditional strategy.

How effective are condoms in preventing HIV?

Male and female condoms used with lubrication are effective in protecting against sexual transmissible infections including HIV but remember condoms are not 100% safe – that is why it is called “safer sex”. Incorrect use particularly lack of lubrication can lead to condom slippage or breakage.

Question 4

Is it ever completely safe to have sex with a HIV-positive person?

There is a significantly reduced risk of transmitting HIV if the person living with HIV has undetectably low levels of virus in their blood as a result of consistent adherence to anti-retroviral treatment.

Question 5

How can people who inject drugs reduce their HIV risk?

  • Use non-injecting drug use methods such as smoking or take the drugs orally.
  • Never re-use needles and syringes. Use a new, sterile syringe to prepare and inject drugs each time – obtained from a reliable source, like a pharmacist or a needle exchange programme.
  • Do not share with other people needles, syringes, tourniquets or any other drug-preparation equipment.
  • Use a fresh alcohol swab to clean the skin prior to injection.
  • Dispose of used needles and syringes in a sharp-safe container.

For more info visit:

Question 6

How can mother-to-child transmission be prevented?

Transmission of HIV from an HIV positive mother to her child can occur during pregnancy, labour or after delivery through breastfeeding. All prospective parents should be tested for HIV. The risk of mother-to-child transmission can be significantly reduced by:

  • Breastfeeding is not recommended here in Australia, but for mothers overseas, who don't have access to clean drinking water etc, they can breastfeed when on treatment.
  • Anti-retroviral treatments administered to the pregnant mother ideally from conception onwards, during the birth and to the child after birth.
  • Caesarean section birth.
  • Seek advice from a health professional on breastfeeding strategies that minimise risk

Question 7

Thank you to Living Positive Victoria for compiling and supplying the above information