The human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, has existed in the United States since at least the 1970s, but myths and misconceptions about how it’s transmitted still persist.
HIV: How It’s Transmitted
Most people know that the virus is commonly spread through sexual contact and intravenous drug use.
HIV is spread through certain body fluids, such as blood, semen (including pre-seminal fluid), rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk.
The virus can be transmitted when these fluids in an infected person come into contact with mucous membranes in the rectum, vagina, penis, or mouth of another person.
While the virus can be spread during anal or vaginal sex, anal sex is riskier because there is more trauma and irritation to the mucous membranes.
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Although the risk is low, The virus can also be spread through oral sex. HIV transmission can happen during ejaculation into the mouth, or if there are mouth ulcers, bleeding gums, genital sores, or other sexually transmitted diseases present.
Using condoms during sex lowers the risk of HIV transmission. “When they are used properly, it’s clear they offer significant protection, however, condoms can fail when they break, if they’re too old, or if they are not used correctly.
The virus can also spread if infected fluids come into contact with damaged tissue, such as a cut in the skin, or if infected blood is transferred from a needle or syringe. Doing injection drugs with someone who is infected and sharing equipment is high risk. This virus can be found in a used needle for as long as 42 days.
Pregnancy is another risk factor to be aware of. While HIV can be spread from an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy, treatment lowers the chances to less than 1 percent, according to AVERT, a nonprofit dedicated to HIV and AIDS education.