All types of contraception (except the diaphragm and cap) are suitable for women with HIV who are not taking treatment. Some methods are less effective if you’re taking anti-HIV drugs.
Several anti-HIV drugs interfere with the way some ‘hormonal’ contraceptives work, and the contraceptive may not be as effective as normal. It’s important to talk to your doctor about this if you are taking a hormonal contraceptive, or if you would like to. For example, this is the case for:
Most people taking anti-HIV drugs will be taking a drug from one of these classes.
These are not recommended for women with HIV because they're generally used with spermicide which can lead to lesions, sores and irritation. These can increase the risk of passing on HIV.
There are two types of emergency contraception:
There are two types of emergency contraceptive pill (also known as the morning-after pill) - Levonelle and ellaOne.
Levonelle has to be taken within 72 hours (three days) of unprotected sex and ellaOne within 120 hours (five days).
It’s important you let the doctor or pharmacist know if you're on HIV treatment, as some anti-HIV drugs interfere with the way the emergency contraceptive pill works.
For example, ellaOne is not suitable for women on HIV treatment because of interactions with HIV drugs.
Women on antiretroviral treatment will need to take twice the normal dose of Levonelle.
You can get free emergency contraception from some GP surgeries (not all provide the IUD), some sexual health clinics, some accident and emergency departments of hospitals (A&E), family planning and young people’s clinics.
The emergency contraceptive pill is also available to buy from chemists without a prescription. It costs about £30-£35, but some chemists will provide it free of charge. You can also buy a cheaper, generic version at Superdrug.
You need to take the pill within 72 hours of having sex (unless you are taking ellaOne, which has to be taken within five days). The sooner you take it, the more likely it is to work.
The intrauterine device (IUD) is a small, plastic and copper device that can be fitted into your womb by a doctor or nurse within five days of having unprotected sex. You can have this done at a family planning clinic, sexual health clinic or at some GP surgeries. You will not have to pay.
The IUD stops sperm from reaching an egg and fertilising it, and can prevent a fertilised egg from implanting in the womb. It's the most effective method of emergency contraception and prevents up to 99% of pregnancies.
The IUD is suitable for women taking HIV treatment as it doesn’t contain any hormones. You may want to continue to use it as a long-term form of contraception.
But remember that this type of contraception doesn’t prevent you from passing on HIV or other sexually transmitted infections.
There are no contraindications to having an abortion if you're HIV positive. See our abortion section for details about how the procedure is carried out and where to find help.
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This article was last reviewed on
by Anna Peters
Date due for the next review: 5/7/2020
Content Author: S. Corkery (NAM)
Current Owner: G. Hughson (NAM)
Sexual Activity Without Condoms and Risk of HIV Transmission in Serodifferent Couples When the HIV-Positive Partner Is Using Suppressive Antiretroviral Therapy, Alison J. Rodger, MD; Valentina Cambiano, PhD; Tina Bruun, RN; Pietro Vernazza, MD; Simon Collins; Jan van Lunzen, PhD; Giulio Maria Corbelli; Vicente Estrada, MD; Anna Maria Geretti, MD; Apostolos Beloukas, PhD; David Asboe, FRCP; Pompeyo Viciana, MD1; Félix Gutiérrez, MD; Bonaventura Clotet, PhD; Christian Pradier, MD; Jan Gerstoft, MD; Rainer Weber, MD; Katarina Westling, MD; Gilles Wandeler, MD; Jan M. Prins, PhD; Armin Rieger, MD; Marcel Stoeckle, MD; Tim Kümmerle, PhD; Teresa Bini, MD; Adriana Ammassari, MD; Richard Gilson, MD; Ivanka Krznaric, PhD; Matti Ristola, PhD; Robert Zangerle, MD; Pia Handberg, RN; Antonio Antela, PhD; Sris Allan, FRCP; Andrew N. Phillips, PhD; Jens Lundgren, MDJournal of the American Medical AssociationJAMA. 2016;316(2):171-181. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.5148
Contraception, NAM Aidsmap, July 2014
Emergency contraception, NHS Choices, January 2015
Emergency contraception, FPA, May 2017
IUD (intrauterine device), FPA, July 2014
How risky is an abortion if I am positive?, i-Base, April 2012
Contraception, by Selina Corkery, NAM Aidsmap, March 2017
New British guidelines recommend treatment for everyone with HIV by Keith Alcorn, 24 June 2015, NAM
Fakoya A et al. UK Guidelines for the management of sexual and reproductive health of people living with HIV infection (2008) BHIVA, BASHH, FRSH
HIV drug interactions
NHS Choices: Abortion - Introduction
NHS Choices: Abortion - What to expect
FPA: Pregnant and don't know what to do? A guide to your options
Fakoya A et al. UK Guidelines for the management of sexual and reproductive health of people living with HIV infection, (2008) BHIVA, BASHH, FRSH
NHS Choices: Emergency contraception
Various people talk about their experiences of living with HIV.
CAB - Citizens Advice Bureau
HIV Drug Interactions
George House Trust
Equality and Human Rights Commission
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