In order for there to be a risk of HIV infection, the following two things must be present: A source of infection and a source of entry.
Five Sources of Infection (Bodily fluids) :
- Semen (including pre-cum/ejaculate)
- Vaginal fluids
- Rectal fluids
HIV cannot pass through healthy, unbroken skin.
Examples of Sources of Entry:
- A break in the skin such as a cut, wound, or needle puncture
- Mucous membranes: Mucous membranes: Linings of body cavities found in the nostrils, the rectum, the vagina, and the inside of a penis’s foreskin (the risk increases when there is a sore or lesion on these linings such as in the case of having an STI)
If a source of infection comes into contact with a source of entry, there is a risk of HIV infection. Some situations where this might occur are:
- Condomless vaginal or anal intercourse, especially without the use of other prevention methods such as PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) or Tasp (Treatment as Prevention)
- Performing oral sex without the use of a barrier (condom or dental dam) on someone when you have cuts or sores in your mouth or have bleeding gums
- Sharing needles and other drug equipment
- Using unclean tattooing or piercing equipment
- Childbirth if the mother is living with HIV and does not seek treatment
The two main ways that HIV can be transmitted are through condomless sex (anal or vaginal sex), or by sharing needles or other drug injection equipment.
HIV cannot be transmitted by:
- talking, shaking hands, working, or eating with someone who has HIV
- hugs or kisses
- coughs or sneezes
- swimming pools
- toilet seats or water fountains
- sharing bed sheets or towels
- eating food prepared by someone living with HIV
- insect or animal bites
Now that you’ve learned how HIV can be transmitted, check out our Prevention section to learn about various prevention methods and which options might be best for you.