HIV is spread through contact with blood, semen, vaginal fluid, or breast milk. The most common ways that people get infected with HIV are unprotected sex or sharing of needles for drug use. HIV can also be passed from mother to infant at birth or through breastfeeding.
To prevent spreading the virus to others:
- Use a condom every time you have sex.
- Do not share needles or syringes.
HIV is not spread through everyday casual contact with people at school, work, home, or anywhere else.
HIV cannot be spread through contact with tears, sweat, or saliva, or by sharing objects like cups, phones, or toilet seats. HIV is not spread through mosquito bites, coughing, or hugging someone with HIV.
Safe Sex Basics
HIV is spread through blood, semen, and vaginal fluid. Any activity that does not allow blood, semen, or vaginal fluids to enter a person’s body is safe.
- Use a new latex condom and water-based lubricant like K-Y Jelly or Astroglide every time you have vaginal or anal sex. (This is not risk-free as a condom may break or come off.)
- Don’t use oil-based lubricants with condoms. Oils in hand lotions, massage oils, Vaseline, etc. can cause the condom to leak or break.
- People who are allergic to latex can use plastic (polyurethane) condoms. These come in both male and female styles. Condoms made from animal skin do NOT protect against HIV.
- Lubricants containing Nonoxynol-9 (N-9) may increase the risk of HIV transmission. Do not use them.
- For oral sex use a barrier such as a latex condom, dental dam, or plastic food wrap.
- Don’t share sex toys. If you do share, wash them well and cover them with a fresh condom each time.
- The surest way to avoid spreading sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV, is not to have sexual intercourse.
If I am HIV positive, can I have sex with another HIV positive person with no risk?
Even if both partners are HIV positive, there is still some risk. You or your sex partner could pass on other sexually transmitted diseases, including other forms of HIV that make it more difficult for the doctors to treat you. It is extremely important that you protect yourself and your partner (HIV positive or not) by practicing safer sex.
This material was developed by JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc., and funded by a Centers for Disease Control Prevention grant.