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Modes of Transmitting HIV

How is HIV transmitted?

HIV is a virus that is transmitted through infected blood or bodily fluids such as semen or vaginal fluid that enters the bloodstream of an uninfected person.

The three main ways of transmitting HIV are:

  • Having unprotected sexual intercourse with an HIV positive person.
  • Injecting drugs using a needle or syringe previously used by an HIV positive person.
  • Being exposed to HIV as a baby before or during birth, or through breastfeeding.

Blood transfusions have also been the source of HIV infection in the past, although in most countries all blood used for transfusions is now tested for HIV.

Any action that potentially causes another person's bodily fluids to enter the bloodstream carries a risk, such as tattoos using un-sterilized needles or blood from wounds from an HIV positive person coming into contact with a wound on an uninfected person.

However, HIV cannot be transmitted via swimming, kissing, hugging, sneezing, coughing, sharing glasses or cutlery, insect bites, etc.