Hesperian Health Guides

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How Is HIV Spread?

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HealthWiki > Where There Is No Dentist > Chapter 12: HIV and Care of the Teeth and Gums > How Is HIV Spread?


HIV lives in certain body fluids, such as blood, semen (sperm), and the fluids in the vagina. The virus is spread when these fluids get into the body of another person. This means that HIV can be spread by:

HIV from sharing needles. HIV from having sex. HIV from breastfeeding.
children playing, men shaking hands, and women sharing a glass.
HIV is not spread by casual contact.
  • touching or receiving the blood of an infected person.
  • mother to child during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding.
  • splashing of blood into the eyes or mouth.


HIV does not live outside the human body for more than a few minutes. It cannot live on its own in the air or in water. This means you cannot give or get HIV from everyday contact, such as play, working with someone, shaking hands, sharing meals, or from spitting, sneezing, coughing, sweating, from tears, or from insect bites.


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