Most people have few, if any, symptoms for several months, or even several years after contracting HIV. But, once HIV enters into the body, it begins to cause damage to the immune system. Left untreated, those with HIV who have no symptoms are able to pass HIV onto others without knowing it.
How is HIV Transmitted?
People who have HIV can transmit it to others through exchange of bodily fluids, which include blood, semen, and vaginal fluids. HIV can also be transmitted to infants through breastmilk from an HIV positive parent, though it is not a serious risk for transmission among adults. There are three main ways bodily fluids can enter another person’s body:
- Unprotected sexual intercourse (sex without a condom or protective barrier), including anal, vaginal, and oral sex.
- Sharing “works” (needles, syringes, cookers, cottons, and water) when injecting drugs or other substances.
- From pregnant person to infant before birth, during birth, or through breastmilk. If you are pregnant and HIV positive, proper medical care can greatly increase the chance of giving birth to an HIV negative baby, so it is extremely important to talk with a healthcare provider.
How is HIV Not Transmitted?
There is not significant risk of HIV transmission while engaging in intimate activities such as kissing, mutual masturbation, or contact between a person’s skin and semen or vaginal fluids. HIV cannot enter through the skin unless there is a fresh break in the skin such as a cut. There is also no scientific evidence that suggests HIV can be transmitted through saliva, sweat, or tears.
There is no danger from casual contact with people who have HIV or AIDS, from toilet seats, phones, or water fountains. The virus can also not be transmitted through the air via sneezing or coughing, nor can one get HIV from insect or animal bites.