Wednesday, August 10, 2011

How is HIV Transmitted?

How do you get HIV?
HIV is transmitted through contact with the blood, semen, vaginal fluid or breast milk of someone already infected with HIV. It is most commonly spread through unprotected sex or during injection drug use, when needles or other drug paraphernalia are shared. The virus needs a human body to survive. It cannot live for very long outside the body.

HIV can enter the body during unprotected sex.
Anal or vaginal intercourse without a condom carries a high risk for HIV transmission. Getting penetrated without a condom by someone who is HIV positive is the riskiest behavior for HIV infection. Penetrating an HIV positive person without a condom has less risk than being the penetrated partner, but is still considered risky. Getting HIV from oral sex is possible, but quite rare.

HIV can enter the body by sharing needles to inject drugs.
Sharing needles with someone already living with HIV carries a high risk of infection. Sharing cookers, cottons and other parts of the injection process with someone living with HIV can also transmit the disease.

Knowing your HIV status and the HIV status of your sexual or needle-sharing partners is vital to preventing new infections.
If you find out that you have HIV, you can take steps to lower the risk of infecting anyone else. Getting treatment will protect your health and may also lower the risk of infecting anyone else. If you do not have HIV, knowing the HIV status of your sex partners or the people you shoot drugs with will help you lower the risk of getting HIV. Getting tested for HIV regularly is an important part of taking care of yourself and your community.

How do you know someone's status?
Ask them! You cannot tell by looking at someone if they have HIV. Be in the habit of asking your sex partners when they had their last HIV test. It’s an important part of lowering your risk.

Keep in mind that a person could be infected for as long as six months before an HIV test will show a positive result (sometimes, they will show a positive result within a few weeks of being infected), so it's a good idea to ask a few more questions, like whether they've done anything risky since their last negative test.

[Source: SF AIDS Foundation]