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How Is HIV Transmitted?

HIV is transmitted through certain bodily fluids, including blood, breast milk, semen, and vaginal/rectal fluids. HIV is actually a fairly difficult virus to transmit, as it dies when it comes in contact with oxygen. HIV requires direct fluid-to-fluid transmission, like through condomless anal sex or by sharing syringes with someone living with HIV.

HIV cannot be transmitted through saliva, touching, hugging, sharing utensils/plates, sharing a bathroom, sharing a shaving razor, or any other activity outside of direct sexual activity, a blood transfusion before 1985, or sharing used syringes.

In the United States, HIV is primarily spread through receptive anal sex, receptive vaginal sex, and sharing syringes. Although it’s less common, HIV can also be passed from a mother to child during childbirth or after birth through breast milk.

Healthcare workers are also potentially at risk for contracting HIV if they are stuck with a needle contaminated with HIV. However, this method of transmission is rare because of protocols in place to protect those working in the health care field.

People currently not living with HIV can use PrEP, a once-daily pill that is over 99% effective at preventing HIV, to feel confident about avoiding a HIV infection.

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