HIV spreads from an infected person to another person through the following ways:
Today, HIV/AIDS is a global problem though prevalence level varies widely from country/region to country/region.
There are about 35 million people living with HIV globally with about 68 percent of this number in Sub-Saharan Africa. Southern Africa has the largest number of people living with HIV, followed by East Africa, Central Africa and West Africa.
The age group most affected is 15-24 years
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus is present in vaginal fluid, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluid, blood and breast milk of an infected person. It can therefore pass from an infected person to someone else during any act that involves the body fluids mentioned above. The virus is not present in saliva.
HIV is not transmitted through casual contact such as hugging, handshakes, social kissing on the cheek, sharing utensils or eating food prepared by an HIV infected person.
HIV is not airborne and so cannot be transmitted through sneezing or coughing.
1. Sexual intercourse
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) can be transmitted through anal sex, vaginal sex and oral sex with an infected person. Of the three, anal sex is the riskiest; and in the act, the receptive person is more at the risk; the lining of the rectum is very thin and the virus can easily penetrate it. The virus is present in semen, pre-seminal fluid, vaginal fluid and rectal fluid, the risk of infection is higher in oral sex if there is ejaculation into the mouth.
In any form of sexual intercourse, the risk is higher if the infected person also has another sexually transmitted disease like gonorrhea/Chlamydia as the virus is more in the above fluids.
2. Sharing sharp objects
Sharing sharp objects with a person infected with HIV is a sure means of contracting the virus; such sharp objects include needles, scarification instruments etc. As said earlier, the virus for HIV infection is present in the blood of infected persons; thus it can be transmitted through unsterilized sharp objects initially used by an infected person as his/her blood is likely to be in the object and hence the virus.
Do not share sharp objects.
3. Infected mother (Parents).
The breast milk of an infected mother contains the virus and so can be transmitted to the new born baby; the virus can also cross the placenta to the baby during pregnancy. The baby can also be infected during delivery.
The probability of the transmission can be reduced by appropriate management during the pregnancy.
4. Blood transfusion
HIV can be transmitted through transfusion of blood or blood products such as plasma and organ transplant donated by an infected person. This route is now minimized because such donations are severely screened before use.
5. Pre-chewed food.
Consumption by a child of pre-chewed food by an infected mother /caregiver can be a means of transmission especially if the infected person has bleeding gums or sores in the mouth.
6. Accidental pricks.
This is important to healthcare providers, transmission can occur through pricks by needles/surgical instruments during treatment of an infected person. This can be minimized through appropriate precautionary measures when attending to any patient.
7. Deep bite
Deep bite by an infected person who has bleeding gums and mouth sores can help spread the virus; however this can only happen if the skin of the person bitten is broken, that is, if the skin is cut through by the teeth of the infected person.
8. Deep open-mouth kissing
Social kissing (such as cheek kissing or lip contact) of an infected person does not spread HIV but deep open-mouth kissing can; this is more so if the infected person has bleeding gums and mouth sores and blood is thus exchanged.
Also Read Facts on HIV/AIDS (1).