Ways HIV Can Be Transmitted and Common Risk Factors

Ways HIV Can Be Transmitted and Common Risk Factors
Only certain body fluids from a person who has HIV can transmit HIV. These fluids include:
  • Blood
  • Semen (cum)
  • Pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum)
  • Rectal fluid
  • Vaginal fluids
  • Breast milk
These fluids must come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into the bloodstream (from a needle or syringe) for transmission to occur. Mucous membranes are found inside the rectum, vagina, penis, and mouth.

Most people get HIV through anal or vaginal sex, or sharing needles, syringes, or other drug injection equipment (for example, cookers). HIV can be transmitted from mother to baby during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding. However, this is less common because of the advances in HIV prevention and treatment.

In the United States, HIV is mainly spread by having sex or sharing syringes and other injection equipment with someone who is infected with HIV. Substance use can contribute to these risks indirectly because alcohol and other drugs can lower people’s inhibitions and make them less likely to use condoms.

HIV can affect anyone regardless of sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, gender, or age. However, certain groups are at higher risk for HIV and merit special consideration because of particular risk factors, such as gay and bisexual men, people who use injection drugs, people who exchange sex for goods, African Americans and Hispanics. People within these groups face social and structural issues such as racism, HIV stigma, homophobia, poverty and have limited access to high-quality healthcare.

Learn more about the HIV prevention challenges that certain groups of people face https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/group/index.html
To learn more about HIV spreading in the United States, visit: HIV Transmission | HIV Basics | HIV/AIDS | CDC