HIV transmits through three main routes.
- Sexual contact with HIV infected person.
- Exposure to infected body fluids (like infected blood) or tissues.
- From mother to fetus or child
Other ways that HIV can be transmitted
- Sharing needles when shooting drugs
- Home tattooing and body piercing
- Accidental needle sticks
- Blood transfusions
Unprotected sexual contact is the major route of spread of HIV infection. (Thanks the Indian culture and family system which discourage free sex lifestyle. The HIV infected population of India is still below 1% when some African countries like Swaziland and Botswana have crossed 38% of total population.)
Sexual contact can be of three types: Vaginal, Anal and Oral.
- Vaginal sex (penis in the vagina)
- Anal sex (penis in the anus) involving either men or women
- Oral sex (mouth on the penis or vagina)
The risk of transmitting HIV is greatly reduced by using a Condom.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) increase the risk of HIV transmission and infection 4 times because of the genital ulceration and/or micro ulceration; and by accumulation of pools of HIV-susceptible or HIV-infected cells ( lymphocytes and macrophages ) in semen and vaginal secretions.
The body fluids containing HIV include
- Blood (including menstrual blood)
- Semen and possibly pre-seminal fluid ("pre-cum")
- Vaginal secretions
- Breast milk
It is possible to find HIV in the saliva , tears , and urine of infected individuals, but due to the low concentration of virus in these biological liquids, the risk is negligible.
The Saliva and HIV:
The risk of HIV transmission from exposure to saliva is considerably smaller than the risk from exposure to semen; contrary to popular belief, one would have to swallow gallons of saliva from a carrier to run a significant risk of becoming infected.
Babies born with HIV infection:
AIDS is one of the 10 leading causes of death in children between one and four years of age worldwide.
AIDS can be transmitted from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy, during the birth process, or through breast milk. There are special drugs that can greatly reduce the chances of this happening.
The interval between exposure to HIV and the development of AIDS is shorter in children than in adults. Infants infected with HIV have a 20-30% chance of developing AIDS within a year and dying before age three. In the remainder, AIDS progresses more slowly; the average child patient survives to seven years of age.
Women are more susceptible to HIV-1 infection due to hormonal changes, vaginal physiology and microbial ecology, and a higher prevalence of STI - Sexually Transmitted Infections.
Already HIV-infected people can still be infected by other, more virulent strains of HIV. Until about 1994, it was generally thought that individuals do not become infected with multiple distinct HIV-1 strains. Since then, many cases of people co-infected with two or more strains have been documented.
Remember that HIV is NOT transmitted through
- Saliva, tears, sweat, feces, or urine
- Shaking hands
- Insect bites like mosquitoes.
- Living in the same house with someone who has HIV
- Sharing showers or toilets with someone with HIV
Estimated per act risk for acquisition of HIV by exposure route
|Exposure Route||Estimated infections per 10,000 exposures to an infected source|
|Needle-sharing injection drug use||67|
|Receptive anal intercourse *||50|
|Percutaneous needle stick||30|
|Receptive penile-vaginal intercourse *||10|
|Insertive anal intercourse *||6.5|
|Insertive penile-vaginal intercourse *||5|
|Receptive oral intercourse *||1 §|
|Insertive oral intercourse *||0.5 §|
|* assuming no Condom use
§ Source refers to oral intercourse performed on a man