How is HIV / AIDS transmitted?

How do you get infected with HIV? How is HIV transmitted?

How do you catch HIV? How do you get AIDS?

You can't "catch" AIDS; you only contract AIDS if you have HIV. Read more about the difference between HIV and AIDS.

HIV can only be transmitted from an infected person to another through direct contact of bodily fluids such as:

  • Blood (including menstrual blood)
  • Semen / cum / precum / ejaculate
  • Vaginal secretions
  • Breast milk

Blood contains the highest concentration of the virus, followed by semen, followed by vaginal fluids, followed by breast milk.



Activities That Put You At Risk for HIV Infection

  • Sexual contact that involves semen, pre-cum, vaginal fluids or blood.
  • Direct blood contact, particularly through sharing injection drug needles or 'works' (cotton, cookers, etc).
  • Infections due to blood transfusions, accidents in health care settings or certain blood products. This is possible, although extremely rare, in the United States.
  • Mother to baby (before or during birth, or while breastfeeding through breast milk)

Sexual intercourse (vaginal and anal): Unprotected anal and vaginal intercourse are high-risk activities. In the penis, vagina and anus, HIV may enter through cuts and sores (many of which would be very small and hard to notice), or directly through the mucus membranes.

Oral sex (mouth-penis, mouth-vagina): Oral sex is considered a low risk practice, but it’s not completely risk-free. The virus can't survive well in the mouth (in semen, vaginal fluid or blood), so the risk of HIV transmission through the throat, gums, and oral membranes is lower than through vaginal or anal membranes. Having an STI, cuts or mouth sores, recent dental work or bleeding gums may increase risk for HIV infection during oral sex.

Sharing injection needles or works: Sharing needles or other materials used for injecting is considered a high-risk practice. Injection needles can pass blood directly from one person to another if you share them. If a person with HIV injects with a needle then shares it with another person, the second person is at very high risk for getting HIV.

Mother to Child: Mother to child transmission is now rare in the U.S. and other high-income countries because pregnant women who are HIV-positive are normally given medications to prevent the fetus from getting infected. However, it is possible for an HIV-infected mother to transmit HIV before or during birth or through breast milk. Breast milk contains HIV, and while small amounts of breast milk do not pose significant threat of infection to adults, it is a risk for infants.



Bodily Fluids that are NOT infectious:

  • Saliva / spit
  • Tears
  • Sweat
  • Feces / poop
  • Urine / pee

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