You get HIV from another person’s body fluids. These are blood, semen, pre-ejaculate (the fluid that comes out of the penis before ejaculation), vaginal secretions and breast milk. You don’t get HIV from another person’s saliva or tears.
The most common way HIV is spread is through unprotected sex. It can be vaginal sex, anal sex (penetration of the anus instead of vagina) or oral sex (putting your mouth on somebody’s genitals). Anal sex and rough or ‘dry’ sex are risky because they can cause small tears inside the anus or in the vagina. The virus can easily pass into the body through these tears.
You may not think so, but oral sex also has risks, especially if you have small cuts in your mouth or gums.
There are other ways you can get HIV:
- A mother who has HIV can pass it on to her baby. This is called mother-to-child transmission. It can be reduced if the mother takes strong HIV medicines called ARVs.
- HIV can enter your body through open cuts or sores on any part of your body. The most dangerous sores are the ones on your vagina and penis.
- Sharing syringes is another way that HIV is transmitted.
You cannot get HIV from:
- Hugging, kissing or touching
- Living together, eating together or sharing a toilet
- Mosquitoes or other insects
If you had unprotected sex or know you are pregnant, take an HIV test. Test for HIV every 3 months to be safe. If you test positive, you will be given antiretroviral (ARV) medicines to keep your body healthy. If you are pregnant, these will also protect your baby.