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How is HIV spread?

How is HIV spread?

HIV is spread though four body fluids:

  • semen
  • vaginal fluid
  • blood
  • breast milk

HIV is NOT spread through:

  • tears
  • sweat
  • feces
  • urine

How is HIV spread through sex?

You can get infected from sexual contact with someone who is infected with HIV. Sexual contact that can transmit HIV includes:

  • vaginal sex (penis in the vagina)
  • anal sex (penis in the anus of either a man or a woman)
  • oral sex (penis in the mouth)

If you have sex, the best thing to do is to practice "safer sex" all the time. To do so, always use a condom, dental dam, or other latex barrier and avoid "rough sex" or other activities that might cause bleeding. If you use lube with a condom, make sure it is water based, not oil-based. Oil-based lube causes latex condoms to break. See more tips for using condoms.

If you have unprotected sex with someone who is infected, it doesn't mean that you will be infected, too. But there is always a chance. Using a condom reduces your risk.

HIV is NOT spread by:

  • hugging or massage
  • masturbation
  • fantasizing
  • dry kissing
  • phone sex
  • cyber sex
  • sex toys you don't share
  • daily living with someone who has HIV

For more information, see Sex and Sexuality in the Daily Living section.

How is HIV spread through blood?

You can become infected if you have contact with the blood of someone who is infected with HIV. Blood-borne infection with HIV can occur through:

  • sharing needles when shooting drugs
  • tattoos or body piercings with unsterilized needles
  • accidental needle sticks
  • blood transfusions
  • splashing blood in your eyes

HIV is NOT spread by blood passed through insect bites.

Can mothers give HIV to their babies?

Pregnant women who are HIV positive can give the virus to their babies in the womb and during birth. Taking anti-HIV drugs during pregnancy and childbirth can help lower the risk, but there is no sure way to prevent infection.

After birth, mothers can give their babies HIV through breast milk. The highest risk may be in the early months after birth. New mothers should try to bottle-feed their babies rather than breast-feed.

If you are an HIV-positive woman and intend to become pregnant, or you find out that you are HIV positive during your pregnancy, talk to your doctor about ways to reduce the chances that your baby will become infected, too.