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How does HIV spread?

Updated on October 7, 2015

A Real Danger

HIV is a very present and very serious immunodeficiency virus that poses a threat to humanity. Knowing how it can be spread is vital so that we may prevent it.
There are four things you need to know about HIV:

  • HIV has spread very quickly and is potentially fatal to anyone who contracts it
  • HIV causes AIDS
  • An estimated 2 million new cases are registered every year
  • No cure has yet been found for this virus

The HIV virus
The HIV virus

Methods Of Spreading

HIV can be spread in many ways.

Bodily fluids such as semen, vaginal excretions and blood can pass it on but saliva and urine do not contain the virus and so are not a danger.

In order for the virus to spread, it needs to get from the infected body or substance into another. Unprotected sex with somebody who is already infected will result in one acquiring this virus.

Here are the main methods of transmission in the world:

  • Unprotected Sex
    This is the most common path of transmission in the world. The virus can enter the blood of another partner through cuts or lesions in the skin. These lesions are often caused by illnesses such as other sexually transmitted infections (STI’s). Also, although it is rare, there have been cases where oral sex has caused the transmission of this virus.
  • Sharing Needles
    Sharing a needle that someone who has been infected has used to take drugs, legally or illegally, is very likely to spread the disease.
  • Direct Blood to Blood Transfer
    This is where one person’s own wound accidentally comes into contact with that of an infected person's wound allowing the disease to transfer. Police, paramedics and medical staff are particularly at risk because they sometimes have to work with infected people. There have been cases where these members have become infected whilst trying to do their job of helping the infected!
  • Maternal Transmission
    Whether through childbirth (mingling of blood during the birth itself) or breast feeding, a child can be infected by his infected mother.

What Are We Doing To Help?

Governmentally backed programmes and charities have been trying to spread the awareness of HIV, to stop the spread of the disease itself. Drug takers are encouraged to tell a medical service so that clean needles can be provided for them, instead of taking the risks of contracting HIV with every use from unknown needles.

Safe Sex Programmes
With increased awareness that unprotected sex with an infected can cause them to be infected too, the use of protection is more and the spread of infection less likely. Also, many Governments in developed countries provide free contraception for certain vulnerable ages (such as teenagers) to increase the likelihood of them being used. This is the same for less developed countries but the availability is not as profound, and otherwise the prices are considered too high for the citizens to rationally buy them.

Professional Precautions
Police, paramedics and medical staff are taking certain precautions to prevent blood to blood contact such as making sure their wounds are not exposed and knowing when they are dealing with infected patients or suspects.

Caesarean Sections
Performing Caesarean sections instead of normal births reduces the risk of the child of an infected mother also being infected to 5% from 20%. This precaution is only realistically available however in countries with developed medical care.

Symptoms of HIV

Possible symptoms of HIV
Possible symptoms of HIV

Things Aiding Aids

The Pope
The pope has opposed condoms and as such religious communities that see him as a moral figurehead have subsequently shied away from using them. This causes huge problems because there is clear evidence that unprotected sex with a HIV or AIDS infected partner has a high chance of passing on the disease.


To conclude, it is vital to understand and respect the different methods of preventing HIV spreading because it is in the interest of everyone to do so. HIV doesn't cause death to people rapidly, so there is a high chance that an infected person willl infect at least one other person before he dies or even realises he has HIV. It is a difficult (if not impossible) virus to deal with once it has already been acquired - we currently have no cure. The easiest and cheapest (in terms of both money and human lives) solution is to prevent it spreading in the first place.

Even if you do not intend to or have never intended to do any of the things that spread HIV, it is still important that you let anybody who doesn't know the dangers of these things know about them!

Remember, the main vector of HIV is spreading infection through unprotected sex.


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    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 6 years ago from Tasmania

      Thank you for this, Philanthropy2012. Although I am not socially involved with the disease or the circumstances where it is likely to be spread these days, I would like to recall one of the reactions to the disease when it was first recognised in the early/mid 1980s.

      I had a good "gay" social life in the early 1980s, in Melbourne. Initially the disease was a mystery and mostly each of us never considered "it might happen to me." Then friends started to disappear from the scene. It was a bit hush-hush. The gay press started publishing articles about it, and care groups sprang up, giving support and companionship to AIDS sufferers - and their families. Two of my close friends died, but they had not been sexual mates, so I remained uninfected.

      People I was living with (heterosexual family, Greek) listened to and filtered out the most sensational stuff they wanted from media releases and came to the conclusion, because they knew I was gay, that I was a danger to them and their children. The invitation they had given me, to join them for Christmas lunch and family festivities, was withdrawn. I felt the "anti-" very strongly and was immediately out on a limb, very lonely. No amount of rationalisation from me would be listened to, so I moved out pretty sharply. Because the main thrust of the gay fraternity then was to do with AIDS prevention, treatment, support etc., the whole "scene" changed, and many otherwise "outed" persons withdrew back into the closet.

      These days, almost 30 years later, the whole public attitude and discussion of sexual matters on the mass-media has changed out of all recognition. I am hoping that school programs are still in place to properly and accurately teach children the facts, as opposed to fiction, about sexually transmitted diseases.

    • Philanthropy2012 profile image

      DK 6 years ago from London

      Done! Thank you :)x

    • Sneha Sunny profile image

      Sneha Sunny 6 years ago from India

      Yes... I saw in a video (though 2 years ago)... And statistics always change. You can add as an estimated count.

    • Philanthropy2012 profile image

      DK 6 years ago from London

      That is a tremendously sad thing! Is that number from a reliable source??? I will add it in!

    • Sneha Sunny profile image

      Sneha Sunny 6 years ago from India

      Deadly diseases! Even though we know how can we protect ourselves still every year around 2 million new cases are registered... How sad... :-(

    • Philanthropy2012 profile image

      DK 6 years ago from London

      Thank you once again and I agree with what you say, I'll try to add a summary for a good send-off! :)

      Have a good evening,


    • Dexter Yarbrough profile image

      Dexter Yarbrough 6 years ago from United States

      Hi Philanthropy2012! You had the right mix. While certainly it is a serious topic, to write it in a less formal and more informal way appeals to a broader range of readers. The subtitles are inviting and the layout is eye-catching.

      You may want to provide more of an ending which briefly summarizes the topic and provides a conclusion. Other than that you did a great job. Voted up, up and away!

    • Philanthropy2012 profile image

      DK 6 years ago from London

      Thank you :)

      Could I ask you to comment on the writing technique? Too formal/informal?

      Have a nice day,


    • Dexter Yarbrough profile image

      Dexter Yarbrough 6 years ago from United States

      Great information and reminder to take precautions. Thanks for sharing!