Is HIV Infection Spread?
HIV infection is spread in three ways: sexual intercourse; direct
contact with infected blood; from an infected mother to her
HIV is spread most commonly by sexual contact with an infected
partner. The virus can enter the body through the lining of
the vagina, penis, rectum or mouth during sexual activities.
Sexual activities that can result in HIV infection include:
- Sexual intercourse
- Anal sex (heterosexual
or homosexual )
- Oral sex (heterosexual or homosexual)
can be spread through direct contact with infected blood:
injected drugs. HIV is frequently spread among users
of illegal drugs that are injected. This happens when needles
or syringes contaminated with minute quantities of blood of
someone infected with the virus are shared.
a health-care setting. Transmission from patient to
health-care worker or vice-versa - via accidental sticks with
contaminated needles or other medical instruments - can occur,
but this is rare.
a blood transfusion. Prior to the screening of blood
for evidence of HIV infection and before the introduction in
1985 of heat-treating techniques to destroy HIV in blood products,
HIV was transmitted through transfusions of contaminated blood
or blood components. Today, because of blood screening and heat
treatment, the risk of acquiring HIV from such transfusions
is extremely small.
An Infected Mother to Her Unborn Child
Women can transmit HIV to their foetuses during pregnancy or
birth. Approximately one-quarter to one-third of all untreated
pregnant women infected with HIV will pass the infection to
pregnant woman can greatly reduce the risk of infecting her
baby if she takes the anti-HIV drug AZT (also called zidovudine)
during her pregnancy. Because the risk of transmission increases
with longer delivery times, the risk can be further reduced
by delivering the baby by caesarean section, a surgical procedure
in which the baby is delivered through an incision in the mother's
abdominal wall and uterus. Combining AZT treatment with caesarian
delivery can reduce the infection rate to between 1% and 2%.
also can be spread to babies through the breast milk of mothers
infected with the virus.
Women who live in countries where safe alternatives to breast-feeding
are readily available and affordable can eliminate the risk
of transmitting the virus through breast milk by bottle-feeding
developing countries, however, where such safe alternatives
are not readily available or economically feasible, breast-feeding
may offer benefits that outweigh the risk of HIV transmission.
Is HIV Infection Not Spread?
Research indicates that HIV is NOT transmitted by casual contact
- Touching or hugging
- Sharing household items such as utensils, towels, and bedding
- Contact with sweat or tears
- Sharing facilities such as swimming pools, saunas, hot tubs,
or toilets with HIV-infected people
- Coughs or sneezes
studies have found tiny amounts of HIV in the saliva of some
people with HIV, researchers have found no evidence that HIV
is spread to other people through kissing. However, the CDC
recommends against "French" or open-mouthed kissing
because of the possibility of contact with blood if the people
kissing have any cuts or sores in the mouth.
short, studies indicate that HIV transmission requires intimate
contact with infected blood or body fluids (vaginal secretions,
semen, pre-ejaculation fluid, and breast milk). Activities that
don't involve the possibility of such contact are regarded as
posing no risk of infection.