HIV has been in the news for decades. It is one of the most misunderstood diseases due to the spread of misinformation on the topic. Let’s examine how HIV is transmitted and discuss what you can do to reduce your risk.
HIV transmission happens only via certain body fluids from a person affected by HIV. It can be transmitted via the blood, semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk. “HIV transmission is only possible if these fluids come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or are directly injected into the bloodstream (from a needle or syringe). Mucous membranes are found inside the rectum, the vagina, the opening of the penis, the mouth, the eyes, and nose.”1
There are two main ways for HIV to be spread: (1) Having sex, either anal or vaginal, without using a condom with someone who has HIV or (2) Sharing injection drug equipment including as needles, with someone who has HIV. It is also possible to transmit HIV via breast milk.
In the past, it was common to contract HIV from blood transfusions, but this is no longer a prominent means of transmission due to the extensive testing was done on donated blood.
Anyone can contract HIV, but there are many ways to reduce your risk. The following list contains some ways you can reduce your risk of contracting HIV.
- Start by getting tested and learning your partner’s HIV status. This service is offered for free at any AIDS Resource location.
- Using a condom properly every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex is key in the prevention of spreading HIV. Condoms are available for free at AIDS Resource’s offices.
- Limit your number of sexual partners. By doing so, you can reduce the number of individuals to which you are exposed. One in four sexually active individuals has a sexually transmitted disease (STD); one of which could be HIV.
- Your doctor or healthcare provider is a great source of information about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP is a prevention option for those who don’t have HIV but who are at high risk of contracting HIV. PrEP involves taking medication every day for HIV. AIDS Resource offers a free PrEP clinic once a month; contact us with questions or to set up an appointment.
- Using drugs by injection is something you shouldn’t do, but if you choose to then use only sterile drug injection equipment and water. If you do share your injection equipment with others, make sure are properly cleaning it. Bleach kits with instructions on how to clean needles are provided for free at AIDS Resource’s offices.
By taking precautions and being diligent about safer sex practices, you can significantly reduce your risk of contracting HIV. You become part of the solution when you take the necessary precautions.
1The Basics of HIV Prevention | Understanding HIV/AIDS https://aidsinfo.nih.gov/understanding-hiv-aids/fact-sheets/20/48/the-basics-of-hiv-prevention