HIV and AIDS

ABC of HIV transmission

Although there is no cure for HIV/AIDS it is easily preventable. You can only get HIV if you get infected blood or sexual fluids into your system. To infect someone, the virus has to get past the body’€™s defences such as the skin and saliva.

Although there is no cure for HIV/AIDS it is easily preventable. You can only get HIV if you get infected blood or sexual fluids into your system.

Some people talk about “shared body fluids” being risky for HIV, but there are no known cases of HIV caused by sweat, saliva or tears.

To infect someone, the virus has to get past the body’€™s defences such as the skin and saliva. If your skin is not cut, it protects you against infection from blood or sexual fluids. Saliva also contains chemicals that can help kill HIV in your mouth.

HIV is passed on in the following ways:

Penetrative sex

Anal and vaginal sex are known as “penetrative” sex. The HIV germ will be in the sperm or vaginal juices of the person who is HIV positive. He or she can pass the germ on to another person through unprotected sex.

A person with a sexually transmitted disease (STD) may have a discharge or sores on his or her private parts. This makes it easier for the HIV germ to get into the blood during sex. Individuals with an STD are at 50% greater risk of contracting HIV.

Having anal or vaginal sex is only safe if you are in a relationship in which both of you are uninfected (HIV negative); both only have sex with each other; neither partner gets exposed to HIV through drug use or other activities; you or your partner wear a condom.

The only sexual activities that are completely safe are kissing, masturbation and mutual masturbation.

Oral sex

Saliva helps to protect you during oral sex. Oral sex is only a risk to either partner if there are open sores or blood (bleeding gums) in the mouth. However, it is still best not to ejaculate (come) in anyone’€™s mouth.

Pregnancy

The HIV germ can pass into the baby if a pregnant mother is HIV positive. But only about 25% of the babies of HIV-infected women are born infected.

The HIV germ can be passed on to the baby through breast milk if a mother is HIV positive. But not all breastfed babies will get the HIV virus.

Blood

The HIV germ can pass from one person to another through his or her blood. However, blood cannot pass through your skin. Blood can only pass through your skin if you have open cuts or sores. Blood can also pass through the mucous membranes in or on your mouth, vagina, penis, anus and eyes.

Sometimes sick people are given extra blood through a blood transfusion. In South Africa all blood is supposed to be tested before it is given to sick people.

The HIV germ can be passed on in very small amounts of blood, such as when people share razor blades. Injecting drugs while sharing needles can also pass on the HIV germ.

About the author

Anso Thom