Hesperian Health Guides
How Is HIV Spread?
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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:
- having unsafe or risky sex with someone who has the virus.
- using injection needles or syringes that have not been sterilized.
- using dirty instruments that cut the skin for injecting drugs, scarring, piercing, circumcision, or dental care. Even if instruments have been washed and look very clean, they can still have germs on them and can spread HIV if they have not been sterilized.
- 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.