Where is HIV found?
HIV can be found in body fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk.
How can HIV be transmitted?
HIV is transmitted through penetrative (anal or vaginal) and oral sex; blood transfusion; the sharing of contaminated needles in health care settings and through drug injection; and, between mother and infant, during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.
HIV can be transmitted through unprotected penetrative sex. It is difficult to calculate the odds of becoming infected through sexual intercourse, however it is known that the risk of infection through vaginal sex is high. Transmission through anal sex has been reported to be 10 times higher than by vaginal sex. A person with an untreated sexually transmitted infection (STI), particularly involving ulcers or discharge, is, on average, 6-10 times more likely to pass on or acquire HIV during sex.
Oral sex is regarded as a low-risk sexual activity in terms of HIV transmission. Risk can increase if there are cuts or sores around or in the mouth and if ejaculation occurs in the mouth.
Transmission through sharing of needles and syringes
Re-using or sharing needles or syringes represents a highly efficient way of transmitting HIV. The risk of transmission can be lowered substantially among injecting drug users by using new needles and syringes that are disposable or by properly sterilizing reusable needles/syringes before reuse. Transmission in a health-care setting can be lowered by health-care workers adhering to Universal Precautions.
HIV can be transmitted to an infant during pregnancy, labour, delivery and breastfeeding. Generally, there is a 15-30% risk of transmission from mother to child before and during delivery. A number of factors influence the risk of infection, particularly the viral load of the mother at birth (the higher the load, the higher the risk).
Transmission from mother to child after birth can also occur through breastfeeding.
Transmission through blood transfusion
There is a high risk (greater than 90%) of acquiring HIV through transfusion of infected blood and blood products. However, the implementation of blood safety standards ensures the provision of safe, adequate and good-quality blood and blood products for all patients requiring transfusion. Blood safety includes screening of all donated blood for HIV and other blood-borne pathogens, as well as appropriate donor selection.
What is the risk of getting HIV from kissing or deep kissing?
Transmission through kissing on the mouth carries a very low risk, and no evidence has been found that the virus is spread through saliva by kissing.
What is the risk of getting HIV through body piercing or from a tattoo?
A risk of HIV transmission does exist if contaminated instruments are either not sterilized or are shared with others. Instruments that are intended to penetrate the skin should be used once, then disposed of or thoroughly cleaned and sterilized.
What is the risk of getting HIV from sharing razors with an infected person?
Any kind of cut using an unsterilized object, such as a razor or knife, can transmit HIV. Sharing razors is not advisable, unless they are fully sterilized after each use.
Is it safe to have sex with an HIV-positive person?
There is always a risk of transmission when having sex with a HIV-positive person. The risk can be significantly reduced if condoms are properly and consistently used.
Is it safe for two infected individuals to engage in unprotected sex exclusively with each other?
No, it is not safe for two HIV-infected individuals to have unprotected sex with each other as re-infection with other types of HIV and the transmission of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can occur. Use of condoms is advised even when both partners are infected.
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