Sexual Transmission: HIV is spread when blood, semen or vaginal fluids from a person living with HIV who is not virally suppressed gets into the bloodstream of another person. The risk of transmission depends on the type of sexual behavior. Oral sex has a low risk of passing HIV. Vaginal intercourse is a higher risk activity for passing HIV. The sexual behavior with the highest risk is anal intercourse. If either partner is living with HIV, the virus may be transmitted, especially if blood is present during sex. The risk of transmission for any of these behaviors can be lowered in a variety of ways, including:
- Condom use (Free condoms are available at our clinic for those over 18 years of age.)
- Antiretroviral treatment for the person living with HIV
- Pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP, a once-a-day pill HIV negative individuals can take to protect themselves. (Contact your healthcare provider or call our office to schedule an appointment for a prescription.)
A person living with HIV who is on HIV treatment and virally suppressed for 6 months or longer has effectively no risk of passing HIV to a partner through sex.
Substance Use Transmission: Sharing needles and works during injection drug use is a high-risk behavior for passing HIV from one person to another. Since blood may be present in the needle, syringe, cooker or water used during injecting, HIV can be easily passed when people share any of these equipment items. By always using sterile injection equipment and not sharing equipment can help protect people who inject drugs from HIV. To find syringe exchange programs near you, visit www.thepointny.org. People who inject drugs may also consider taking PrEP, a daily medication that can protect an HIV negative person from getting HIV. (Contact your healthcare provider or call our office to schedule an appointment for a prescription.)
Mother-to-Child Transmission: A woman who is living with HIV can pass the virus to her baby during:
There are medicines that a woman living with HIV should take during pregnancy, labor, and delivery to protect her health and greatly reduce the chance that she will pass the virus to her baby. Medication is also given to the infant right after birth and for the first weeks of life. It is very important for all women to know their HIV status before they become pregnant, or very early in their pregnancy, so that they can take full advantage of these medicines. A second HIV test is also recommended late in the pregnancy to identify if the woman was exposed to HIV during the pregnancy. Since HIV is also found in breast milk, women living with HIV should not breastfeed their babies.
Blood Transfusion: At the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, some people became a person with an HIV diagnosis from receiving a blood transfusion. With testing of the blood supply since 1985, there is no longer a risk of getting HIV when receiving a transfusion in the United States.