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HIV/AIDS

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How is HIV spread?

How is HIV spread?

HIV is spread mostly through 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 you can do to prevent HIV infection is practice "safer sex" with any partner who is not proven to be HIV negative (on recent testing). To do so, always use protection--this could include using a condom, dental dam, or other latex barrier, and/or PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis, a daily medication taken daily to prevent HIV). It is also important to 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; note that, if used correctly and consistently, condoms also protect against other sexually transmitted infections and against pregnancy.

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
  • 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 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 HIV pass from mothers 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 new mothers who have HIV infection bottle-feed their babies rather than breast-feed.

If you are a woman living with HIV and you 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.