How is HIV transmitted?

How do new HIV infections happen

HIV can be passed on to another person through infected blood, semen, vaginal and anal fluids, and breast milk. In the UK, HIV is most commonly transmitted through unprotected anal or vaginal sex or by the sharing of infected needles or other drug-injecting equipment.

HIV cannot live for more than a few minutes outside the human body, so getting HIV is difficult unless you have unprotected sex or share drug-injecting equipment.

It is important to be aware that if someone is on effective medication and the level of virus in their blood has been undetectable for at least 6 months, then they cannot pass on the virus to others.

Mother-to-baby transmission in pregnancy is extremely uncommon in the UK, as doctors work with pregnant women to reduce the risk of this happening.

Many myths continue from the early days of HIV and it is important to be aware that you cannot get HIV through day-to-day contact such as shaking hands or hugging. HIV cannot be transmitted through saliva, including kissing, spitting, or even sharing plates, cups or cutlery. Nor can HIV be passed on though urine or faeces, so you cannot get HIV from a toilet seat!

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