HIV, the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), is transmitted via certain bodily fluids, including blood, semen, pre-cum, vaginal fluid, rectal fluid, and breast milk, through means such as sexual intercourse, blood transfusion, needle sharing, and mother-to-child transmission.
With the increasing rate of HIV infections in the country, further raising awareness about and preventing the spread of the virus is more pressing than ever. And while abstaining from sex (and other risky behaviors that can expose you to HIV) may be the best way to protect yourself, sex education and sex positivity can help you enjoy a healthy and satisfying sex life. This is where the Triangle of Self Care comes in.
How is HIV Transmitted?
HIV can be transmitted through unprotected, penetrative sexual intercourse, which is possible through anal, vaginal, and oral sex. The risks associated with various sexual practices are different. Please check out information on safe and satisfying sex to know more about it.
Sharing of needles (or syringes) poses a high risk of HIV transmission. Hormones, drugs, steroids, or silicone that are administered to the body through needles or syringes may facilitate HIV transmission if the needles and equipment are tainted with someone else’s blood, thus transmitting HIV. Tattoos and body piercing for the same reason also pose some risk of HIV transmission due to unsanitary practices such as sharing needles and ink or poorly sterilized needles and equipment.
Blood transfusion also poses a risk of HIV transmission. It is therefore imperative for medical facilities to ensure that the blood and the donor of the blood are thoroughly screened. It is generally advised for people who want to be tested for HIV or for other sexually transmitted infections to not donate blood. It is possible that blood that has been tested as negative or nonreactive at the time of donation can turn out reactive as the virus replicates itself in the blood, and the viral load is increased. However, as screening procedures implemented by most medical care providers are highly rigorous, the chances for this happening is extremely low and should not be the cause of undue panic or worry.
There is a high chance of an HIV infected mother to pass on the virus to her child during pregnancy or giving birth, especially if she is unaware of the infection and has not been receiving any antiretroviral treatment (ART). Furthermore, breastfeeding is also a mode of mother-to-child transmission as the virus is also found in breast milk. Please note, however, that infected mothers could take care of their unborn child by taking ART. The treatment reduces the chances of HIV transmission from mother to child. In some cases, seropositive or infected mothers on ART give birth to seronegative or uninfected offspring.