How can you get HIV infection?
The three main ways that you can get HIV infection are:
- Having sex with someone who is already infected with HIV;
- Using needles and other injecting equipment which contain infected blood;
- An HIV positive mother can pass HIV to her child during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding.
This is because when a person has HIV infection, HIV is present in their blood, semen (cum), pre-ejaculate (pre-cum), vaginal fluid, and anal fluid. They can pass HIV onto someone else when their infected substance gets into another person.
When an HIV positive woman is pregnant she can pass HIV to her child in her womb, at the time of the baby's birth and when she is breast feeding.
Getting HIV from having sex
HIV is most commonly passed from one person to another through unprotected vaginal or anal sex. Unprotected sex means having vaginal or anal intercourse without using a condom. There is a very low risk of getting HIV through oral sex or through sharing sex toys.
What is vaginal sex?
During vaginal sex (also known as penetrative vaginal sex, vaginal intercourse, sexual intercourse or just referred to as sex) the man's erect penis goes into the woman's vagina.
Using a male condom during penetrative vaginal sex prevents HIV being passed on during sex. The condom should be put on the erect penis before it touches or enters the vagina. Using a good water based lubricant can help penetration to feel more comfortable. Oil based lubricants like petroleum jelly should not be used as they can cause a condom to break.
What is anal intercourse?
Anal sex is any type of sexual activity that involves the anal area. Many people whether they are heterosexual, gay or bisexual enjoy it.
Usually anal intercourse is considered to be when a man's penis enters the anus. It can also means using the tongue to stimulate the anus (sometimes referred to as 'rimming'). Unprotected anal sex has a higher risk of HIV being passed on than many other sexual activities. If you are HIV positive, using a condom will help protect you from getting HIV.
What is oral sex?
Oral sex is when a person uses their mouth and tongue to stimulate their partners genital or anal areas. There is a very low risk of getting HIV infection as a result of oral sex unless one person has genital or mouth sores or bleeding gums.
Mother to child transmission of HIV
Mother to child transmission (MTCT) of HIV is the spread of HIV from an HIV positive woman to her child during pregnancy, childbirth (also called labour or delivery) or through breast milk when breast feeding. There is more about MTCT.
How you can't get HIV or AIDS
HIV cannot be spread through the air. Also, there is nothing that you can do on your own that will result in your getting HIV. To become infected with HIV, you have to carry out certain activities, with someone who is already infected.
AIDS is a very severe form of HIV infection. So you can only get AIDS when you already have HIV infection.
Post exposure prophylaxis (PEP)
Anti HIV medication called PEP may stop you becoming infected if you have been exposed to HIV. But it must be taken within 72 hours of being exposed to the virus.