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How is HIV Transmitted?

Overview: How is HIV Transmitted?

HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is transmitted to the human body through contact with infected bodily fluids. The five fluids that are often mentioned are: 1) semen (a combination of sperm and fluids), 2) vaginal secretions, 3) blood and blood components, and 4) cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF), found in the brain, and the spinal cord; [After severe head injuries, some people may have CSF, which is clear, ooze out of their nose or ears, etc.], and 5) breast milk.

For example: HIV is commonly transmitted by people having unprotected sex, by medical professionals & infants who come in contact with infected body fluids and also by people sharing needles used to inject illegal drugs. However, in some countries, people are still receiving blood transfusions, tainted with HIV, during surgery, etc.

A. Unprotected Sex

Unprotected sex means having sexual relations without taking proper precautions. Sex may including oral, anal, vaginal sex/intercourse, and fondling.

According to the U.N., 7,000 young people between the ages of 10 and 24 are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, every single day! This doesn't include younger children who are raped or prostituted or infected infants. There is no such thing as "safe sex" with someone you are not married to. Having anal sex, instead of "regular" sex doesn't keep you a "virgin". It's the #1 risk factor for getting HIV!

Infection of males and females is also common through vaginal intercourse, due to tearing of tissue.

Latex condoms with nonoxynol 9 can be effective against HIV, IF the tiny virus does not pass through & IF they are worn every time--properly--which almost never happens; & IF there are no holes. Condoms don't prevent all STDs. Other STDs--sexually-transmitted diseases--are even smaller than the HIV and do pass through condoms. Ex.: the HPV--human papilloma virus--which is found in 100% of cervical cancers & kills women or can make women sterile.

If you have a hangnail, a cut, or a tiny bit of skin/blood exposed on your hand , you can get infected by sexual fondling.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, open-mouthed, hard kissing is believed to transmit HIV: An infected person may have brushed their teeth too hard, or may have bleeding gums, so tiny bits of blood in saliva--not the saliva itself--may carry the virus and pass it on to another person through their bleeding gums, etc.

Oral sex is not "safe sex" because blood in the mouth or body of an infected person may cause transmission to another.

HIV+ individuals may also become re-infected with HIV, because the virus keeps mutating into unique strains!

B. Health Care Workers

Medical professionals sometimes become infected through coming in contact with infected body fluids. This may happen, for example, during an emergency, while helping someone without wearing proper protection (gloves, face masks, etc.). Also, sometimes patients become belligerent--either because of head trauma, alcohol/drugs, psychological problems, or plain meanness and spit at health care workers or prick them with needles, or other tools already in contact with their blood. Some medical folks have also mistakingly stabbed themselves with needles, etc.

C. Infants

Many HIV-positive moms have healthy babies in the U.S. However, there are several ways that HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is passed on from the mother to the infant. From the moment fertilization occurs, the mother's body begins to feed the baby to be: and feeding of nutrients and oxygen is done directly through the blood, which carries nutrition through human bodies. Something else pregnant women pass on to their babies are antibodies. (Antibodies recognize foreign bodies and infectious cells and cling on to them; then white blood cells attack the infection . . . this is what causes swelling, redness, and warmth in areas of the skin, for example where an infection has appeared.)

But the blood of infected mothers also caries with it the HIV virus, which lives in and destroys white blood cells. Without early preventive treatment (pre-natal drug therapy), the baby will automatically be born HIV-positive. Women, even in the U.S., often wait too long before seeking medical check-ups, however, and that is usually too late. Sometimes they wait because they are young teenage unwed mothers, and don't want anyone to know they are pregnant. (Often pregnant women may not have any symptoms of HIV infection.) Also, many expectant mothers don't get pregnancy check-ups because they know they are HIV-positive and hope to either abort the baby or just ignore the problems the child will have. These babies often end up abandoned.

But infection may also occur during or after birth, if the infant's umbilical cord comes in contact with the mother's blood.

Also, since more immune system protection--white blood cells--is passed on from moms after the birth through breast-feeding, so can HIV, if there is no preventive drug therapy.

Preventive drug therapy is now part of pre-natal care, but only for American mothers who get pre-natal care from the start; and only for mothers who are educated and can afford it in other countries.

D. Sharing Needles & Other Stupid Ways to Become Infected

People use needles to inject illegal drugs, such as cocaine, crack, and heroine into their veins & bloodstreams.

Studies occasionally claim that society should pass out sterile needles for drug addicts, in order to prevent HIV, but there are two major flaws with that argument: 1) It may or may not encourage people to become addicts, but it certainly will condone the practice of using illegal drugs, not discourage it. That is wrong! 2) People who are on drugs often do stupid things, like have unprotected sex, which leads to more HIV infections, not less. Also, some addicts--men & women--often have unprotected sex in order to get money for drugs.

At a junior high I recently worked with, kids began playing a "game" where they poked one another with lead pencils, ink pens, and steel compasses. (Hint: just because they're not needles for drugs, doesn't mean they're HIV-free!)


A Christian Response to AIDS

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What the Bible Teaches
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Related Links on HIV/AIDS
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