Staying HIV Free
How is HIV spread?
HIV is spread through blood-to-blood contact or sexual contact with an infected person. There are three basic ways in which HIV can be transmitted:
- Sharing needles and syringes with someone who has the virus
- Having sex – vaginal, anal, oral – with someone infected with HIV
- A baby’s exposure to his or her infected mother during pregnancy, birth, or through breast-feeding.
- Prior to testing for HIV in 1985, some people became infected with HIV through receiving blood transfusions, blood components or blood clotting factors, or transplants of infected organs. Since 1985, testing has improved greatly, and this type of transmission is very low.
There are four basic body fluids that contain enough HIV to infect someone:
- Vaginal Fluids
- Breast Milk
If someone has come into contact with these body fluids that contain HIV, they may become exposed to the virus. HIV has to have entry into the body for there to be a true exposure. Entry can be sexual openings, cuts, scraps, open wounds, open blisters, and through mucus membranes such as the eyes, nose, ears, and mouth. You cannot get HIV through casual everyday contact such as hugging, using public toilets, drinking fountains, or swimming pools.
People cannot get HIV from saliva, tears, sweat, vomit, urine, or feces. These fluids do not contain enough HIV to infect someone. There is no evidence that anyone in the United States has become infected with HIV from these body fluids. A potential risk to HIV may be the presence of blood, semen, vaginal fluids or breast milk in saliva, tears, sweat, vomit, urine, or feces and these fluids enter into an opening in the body.
Learn about exposure through sharing needles
Someone can become infected with HIV from sharing a needle or syringe that contains blood from an infected person. Because blood can be injected directly into the body, the person sharing a contaminated needle or syringe is at risk of becoming infected. Sharing needles and syringes with anyone for any reason – such as injecting drugs (including steroids, insulin, and other legal and illegal drugs), body piercing, and tattooing – can spread HIV. There are several ways in which someone can reduce their risk for HIV infection through sharing needles:
- Don’t use illegal drugs
- Don’t share needles, syringes, or equipment for any reason
- Use unused, sterile equipment and needles
- Sterilize needles and syringes with chlorine bleach and water (chlorine bleach destroys HIV)
- Get tattoos and body piercing done at a shop that is licensed with the state department of health
- Do not share ink for tattooing
Learn about exposure through sex
HIV is considered a sexually transmitted disease and the most common way in which HIV is spread is through sex. HIV can infect anyone who has sexual contact with someone who has HIV. Sexual contact includes anal, oral, and vaginal sex and a person may be exposed to the virus if they come into contact with an infected persons blood, semen, or vaginal fluid. Anyone is at risk for HIV infection through sexual contact regardless of age, race, or gender. In the United States, the total number of people with AIDS infected through men to women sex is lower than the total number infected through men to men sex. Nevertheless, the rate of new HIV infections among men who have sex with men is decreasing, while the rate of men to women sex is increasing. There are several ways in which someone can reduce their risk for HIV infection through sexual contact:
- Abstain from having sex (oral, anal, or vaginal)
- Stay in a committed, monogamous relationship (had sex only with one partner who does not have HIV and who only has sex with you) and both be tested for HIV
- Know your partner. Talk opening about past behaviors and HIV testing to all sexual partners prior to having sex
- Use latex or polyurethane male condom consistently and correctly every time during sex
- Use a polyurethane female condom consistently and correctly every time during sex
Testing for HIV
People who think they are at risk of HIV infection are encouraged to seek individual counseling and testing. People are at risk for HIV if they:
- Share needles or syringes for injecting drugs
- Have sex with anyone who injects drugs
- Have had sex with a man or woman who has other sexual partners
- Have shared needles or inks for tattooing or body piercing