What is HIV?
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS. This virus is passed from one person to another through blood-to-blood and sexual contact. In addition, infected pregnant women can pass HIV to their baby during pregnancy or delivery, as well as through breast-feeding. People with HIV have what is called HIV infection. Most of these people will develop AIDS as a result of their HIV infection.
HIV transmission can occur when blood, semen (including pre-seminal fluid or "pre-cum"), vaginal fluid, or breast milk from an infected person enters the body of an uninfected person.
HIV can enter the body through the anus or rectum, the vagina, the penis, the mouth, other mucous membranes (e.g., eyes or inside of the nose), cuts and sores or through a vein (e.g., injection drug use). Intact, healthy skin is an excellent barrier against HIV and other viruses and bacteria.
These are the most common ways that HIV is transmitted from one person to another:
- by having sexual intercourse (anal, vaginal, or oral sex) with an HIV-infected person
- by sharing needles or injection equipment with an injection drug user who is infected with HIV
- from HIV-infected women to babies before or during birth, or through breast-feeding after birth
Some health-care workers have become infected after being stuck with needles containing HIV-infected blood. Hence all health workers should use barriers like gloves, masks when attending to HIV positive patients.
HIV is not easily transmitted. It is NOT spread through the air, through water, by insects, or during ordinary social contact. It has NEVER been transmitted by casual contact