How is HIV spread?
HIV is spread mostly through four body fluids:
- vaginal fluid
- breast milk
HIV is NOT spread through:
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. You also can take a daily medication called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to lower your risk of HIV.
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, especially if your partner is not on effective HIV medicines. Using condoms and PrEP reduces your risk.
HIV is NOT spread by:
- hugging or massage
- 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 injection equipment when shooting drugs
- getting 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.
If you inject drugs, the best thing to do is to use new or sterilized injection equipment every time. You can also take a daily medication called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to lower your risk of HIV. Learn more about PrEP.
Can mothers pass HIV to their babies?
Infection can pass from HIV positive pregnant women to their babies in the womb and during birth. Taking anti-HIV drugs during pregnancy and childbirth dramatically lowers the risk of a baby becoming infected with HIV.
After birth, transmission can occur through breast milk of infected women. The highest risk may be in the early months after birth. It is recommended that HIV-positive new mothers 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 immediately about ways to minimize the chances that your baby will become infected, too.