How HIV Spreads
HIV is found in blood, semen (cum), pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum), vaginal fluid, rectal fluid, and breast milk. HIV spreads when one of these fluids from a person who has HIV enters the body of a person who does not. Some of the ways this can happen are through:
- Anal, oral, or vaginal sex
- Needles, syringes, or other injection equipment
- Pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding
- Small amounts of blood spread during
deep kissing or oral sex—extremely rare
Protect Yourself and the People
You Care About
Start by getting tested. And take these steps.
Try talking to your partners about HIV first. Ask whether they have been tested and what the results were. And always use condoms. Here are some tips on how and when to use them during different sexual activities.
Injection drug use:
Never share needles, syringes, or other drug injection equipment.
Breastfeeding and Pregnancy:
Do not breastfeed if you have HIV. The virus can be passed to your baby through breast milk. If you are pregnant, a healthcare provider can help you understand how to prevent passing HIV to your baby.
Want the Truth?
According to the CDC, about 90% of new HIV infections result from sexual activity.
That is why it is important to know your chances of getting HIV from different activities. Then you can make informed choices about protecting yourself.
The fact is, HIV is most often spread during
sex. The activities with the highest risk for HIV infection are:
- Receptive anal sex (bottoming)
- Insertive anal sex (topping)
- Receptive vaginal sex
- Insertive vaginal sex
You should also know that other factors can increase your chance of getting HIV:
- Having unprotected sex
- Having many sex partners
- Injection drug use
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Some STIs make it easier for HIV to infect you
A helpful list from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS):
Know the risk of getting HIV from different
Receptive anal sex (bottoming) carries the most risk for getting HIV of any sexual activity.
Insertive anal sex (topping)
Receptive vaginal sex
Insertive vaginal sex
Extremely Low Risk
Receiving oral sex if you are a man or a woman
Performing oral sex on a man or a woman
Oral-anal contact (rimming)
Small amounts of blood spread during deep kissing or oral sex—extremely rare
Activities without body fluid contact:
Casual or dry kissing
Phone sex, cyber sex
Sex toys (not shared)
What is a
Let's say you have sex with one person.
That person has sex with other people.
They have sex with other people.
And so on.
This is called a sexual network.
It shows how people are linked by sex.
Fewer partners = Lower risk
When you have fewer partners, you
have a smaller sexual network. And
a lower chance of contact with
someone who has HIV.
Know your status
You can't know the status of everyone in your network. But there is one person's status you can always know: Yours. That is why regular testing is so important.
HIV treatment also
helps stop the virus
If you do have HIV, starting and sticking with treatment can help get your viral load so low, it can't be measured by a test. So low it's undetectable.
Current research shows that taking HIV treatment every day and getting to and staying undetectable prevents the spread of HIV to others through sex. Talk to a healthcare provider. Because HIV is still
in your body. And being
undetectable doesn't prevent
other sexually transmitted
infections. So stick with treatment, use condoms, and practice safer sex.
If you do not have HIV, you should know about post-exposure prophylaxis. PEP for short. It involves taking medicine after contact with HIV. Treatment must begin within 72 hours. PEP is only available from a healthcare provider, emergency room, urgent care clinic, or HIV clinic. It is not 100% effective. And follow-up
HIV testing is required. If you think you have
been exposed to HIV, you must see a
healthcare provider or go to a clinic
or emergency room right away.
It's All About You
There are now more ways than ever to protect yourself and help stop the virus. Check out the HEALTHYSEXUAL® site for tips on talking to healthcare providers about all the ways to prevent sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.