How Does Hiv Get Inside The Body In The First Place
It turns out that its relatively difficult for HIV to get inside the body and lock on to those white blood cells. This can only happen during intimate contact between two peopleby which we mean anal sex, vaginal sex, or sharing injection-drug equipment.
HIV cannot pass through a persons skin. This means that you will not become positive by touching bodily fluid that contains HIV, unless you have an open wound where youre touching the fluid. Even if you ingest the viruslets say, by eating food with traces of HIV inside itthe acid inside your stomach will protect you.
HIV almost always enters the body in one of three ways:
- Direct contact with the bloodstream, either through an open wound or with a needle.
- Direct contact with certain mucous membranesspecifically, the soft, permeable tissues inside the rectum, vagina, penis, and mouth.For newborns, exposure is possible during pregnancy, delivery, or shortly after birth by consuming breast milk from an HIV-positive person.
For adults, its important to remember that HIV can only enter the body when its exposed to an open wound, injected directly into the bloodstream, or passed through a mucous membrane, typically through anal or vaginal sex.
In addition, anyone who is pregnant should get an HIV test. If the results come back positive, your doctor can help you stay healthy and prevent your baby from getting HIV.
Can You Get Hiv/aids From Someone’s Blood Touching Your Open Sore
HIV transmissions as a result of one person’s blood entering another person’s open sore or wound are theoretically possible, but in practice hardly ever happen. Only a handful of cases have ever been documented.
If a person is living with HIV and they do not have an undetectable viral load, and their blood directly enters the bloodstream of another person, HIV may be passed on. For example, this is how HIV is usually transmitted when people share syringes or needles used to inject drugs.
However, HIV transmission following limited contactfor example, blood touching an open soreis much less likely.
If you are concerned about an incident in which you had contact with another person’s blood, it’s worth noting a few points:
- If the blood came into contact with undamaged, unbroken skin, there is no HIV risk whatsoever.
- HIV is not transmitted through surface scratches, such as paper cuts.
- A cut or wound that is in the process of healing and scabbing over is unlikely to allow entry of the other person’s blood.
- HIV does not survive long outside the body, so the risk from blood left behind on objects is minimal.
- The handful of documented cases of HIV transmission involving fights or accidents have involved serious injuries and profuse bleeding.
What Happens Once Hiv Gets Into The Body
Once HIV gets into the body, it needs to infect immune cells and make copies of itself to cause a permanent infection.
HIV cannot replicate on its own it needs to take over cells within the body to replicate. To do this it targets specific immune cells called CD4 T cells as well as other immune cells. HIV enters and takes control of the cell and starts to replicate. New copies of the virus are released into the blood that can then infect more immune cells.
If the virus can replicate for one to three days without being stopped, it can then spread to other parts of the body and establish a permanent infection. The bodys immune system defences are sometimes able to defeat HIV before it spreads and causes a permanent infection. Taking pre-exposure prophylaxis or post-exposure prophylaxis can also stop HIV from replicating and being able to establish a permanent infection.
About two-thirds of people newly infected with HIV experience symptoms of acute infection such as fever, chills, a rash, muscle aches, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, night sweats and mouth ulcers, which may last from a few days to a few weeks.
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How Is Hiv Not Passed From One Person To Another
You may have just read the section above and thought to yourself: Wait, that seems like a really short list of ways HIV gets transmitted. What about mosquitoes? Blowjobs? Kissing? Sharing food or utensils?
As weve previously discussed in this guide, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about HIV transmission. At some point, people without HIV may worry they have been exposed to the virus. And when people get freaked out about their health, they tend to start scouring the internet for answers.
At TheBody, weve spent the past 25 years fielding questions about HIV exposure fears and talking with experts about the realities of HIV risk. So we know an awful lot about the HIV transmission concerns people tend to have in common.
These are the top five recurring fears about HIV transmission that are way, way more than theyre cracked up to be:
- oral sex
Lets break each of these down in more detail.
How Is Hiv Passed During Pregnancy And Childbirth
HIV can be passed from a parent to their child during pregnancy, labour and delivery. Most babies who get HIV through perinatal transmission acquire it during labour and delivery, when they are exposed to blood and vaginal fluid as they pass through the birth canal. Additionally, HIV in the parent’s blood can pass to a fetus through the placenta during pregnancy.
Without HIV treatment, there is a 15% to 30% chance that a baby born to a person living with HIV will acquire HIV during pregnancy or delivery. Taking HIV treatment to maintain an undetectable viral load is the best way to prevent passing HIV to a baby. In fact, research has shown that if a pregnant person starts HIV treatment before pregnancy and maintains an undetectable viral load throughout pregnancy and delivery, they do not transmit HIV to their baby. When treatment is started after conception and taken for the remainder of the pregnancy and delivery there is a low risk of HIV transmission. A short course of HIV medications is also given to the infant immediately after birth to help prevent HIV transmission. Recommendations such as initiation of lifelong HIV treatment as soon as possible after diagnosis for all people living with HIV and the offer of an HIV test during pregnancy have made perinatal transmission extremely uncommon in Canada.
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Sharing Food Drink Or Utensils
Speaking of mouths: Everything I just mentioned when explaining why kissing is not an HIV-transmission risk also applies to eating and drinking. That includes every type of normal food- or drink-sharing scenario you can think of, including splitting a plate of nachos, drinking from the same water bottle, and using the same fork when sharing a piece of cake.
The only documented cases of HIV transmission through food are extremely specific: They involve food that a person with HIV pre-chewed and then fed to an infant.
Needless to say, this is an extraordinarily rare eventonly a few cases have ever been recordedand they most likely involved blood entering the food due to the adult having poor oral hygiene.
So unless youre making like a mama bird and its chick, you can enjoy a meal or a drink with a person whos living with HIV and have zero concern that youre putting yourself at risk.
How Can I Protect Myself
The best way to protect yourself from HIV is to not have sex and not share needles.
If you decide to have sex, reduce your risk of getting HIV by:
- using a condom every time you have sex
- getting tested for HIV and making sure all partners do too
- reducing the number of sexual partners you have
- getting tested and treated for STDs having an STD increases the risk of HIV infection
Understanding how HIV spreads can help you make safer choices about sex. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about HIV and if you want to get tested.
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How Is Hiv Spread Through Blood
You can become infected if you have contact with the blood of someone who has HIV. Blood-borne infection with HIV can occur through:
- sharing injection equipment when using drugs
- getting tattoos or body piercings with unsterilized needles
- accidental needle sticks
- splashing blood in your eyes
HIV is NOT spread by blood passed through insect bites.
If you inject drugs, the best thing to do is to use new or sterilized injection equipment every time. You can also take a daily medication called pre-exposure prophylaxis to lower your risk of HIV. .
Safe And Legal Disposal Of Sharps
Disposal of sharps, which includes syringes, needles, and lancets is regulated. They can carry hepatitis, HIV, and other germs that cause disease. Throwing them in the trash or flushing them down the toilet can pose health risks for others. Regulations governing disposal of sharps protect garbage and other utility workers and the general public from needlesticks and illness. There are different rules and disposal options for different circumstances. Contact your local health department to determine which option applies to your situation.
Found Syringes in Public Locations
Syringes that are found in parks, along roadsides, in laundromats, or in other public locations present potential risk for accidental needlesticks. Risks for infection from a found syringe depends on a variety of factors, including the amount of time the syringe was left out, the presence of blood, and the type of injury . The risk of HIV infection to a healthcare worker from a needlestick containing HIV-positive blood is about 1 in 300, according to CDC data.
Anyone with an accidental needlestick requires an assessment by a medical professional. Clinicians should make certain that the injured person had been vaccinated against hepatitis B and tetanus and may also recommend testing for HIV, HCV, and HBV. If a found syringe is handled, but no needlestick occurred, testing for HIV is not necessary.
Safe Disposal of Found Syringes
For safe disposal of found syringes:
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Hiv Transmission Can Occur After Only One Exposure
Assigning an actual percentage to the riskiness of a certain activity is a tricky business. While statistics may suggest that there is only a 1-in-200 chance of getting infected by such-and-such activity, that doesnt mean you cant get infected after only one exposure.
Instead, a 0.5% per exposure risk is meant to indicate that an average of one infection will occur out of 200 people who engage in a particular activity. It doesnt mean that you need to do something 200 times in order to get infected.
Its important to remember that risk estimates are based on two factors and two factors alonethat one person has HIV and the other doesnt. Additional co-factors, such as co-existing sexually transmitted infections , general health, and the infected persons viral load, can further compound risk until a low-risk activity is suddenly considerably higher.
How Does Hiv Work
The full scientific name for HIV is human immunodeficiency virus. Its an infection that attacks the immune system, and it operates like this:
- The virus itself is shaped like a bowling ball covered in tiny spikes
- After HIV enters the bloodstream, it uses those tiny spikes to latch on to white blood cells , the bodys first line of defense against infections
- As soon as HIV gets inside white blood cells, it uses the cells own machinery to create copies of itself, creating effective camouflage that tricks the immune system into leaving it alone
- As HIV creates even more copies of itself, it hijacks a persons immune system
- A weakened immune system means that people living with untreated HIV may start to get all sorts of infections that would never normally make them sickEventually, without proper treatment, HIV leads to AIDS and becomes life-threatening
Todays anti-HIV medicines have been designed to address each stage of the infection process.
Some of these medications, which are also called antiretrovirals, stop HIVs spikes from latching on to CD4 cells. Others use different methods to stop HIV from replicating.
These drugs cant completely eradicate the virus from a persons body, but they do successfully stifle its ability to make copies of itself.
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How Is Hiv Not Transmitted
HIV is not transmitted by saliva, tears, sweat, urine or feces. HIV does not survive well outside the human body. It cannot be transmitted through casual contact with a person who has HIV, or through objects such as toilet seats, doorknobs or dishes used by a person who has HIV.
In the past, some people got HIV after receiving a blood transfusion or organ or tissue transplant. However, Canada implemented HIV screening for all blood and tissue donations in 1985.
Ok But What About My Specific Hiv Risk Question
Over the years, we’ve receivedand our experts have answeredliterally thousands of questions from people concerned about a potential exposure to HIV. Some of them have been extremely detailedbut those details don’t change any of the basic facts about how HIV is and isn’t transmitted.
You can figure out the answer to just about every question that could possibly exist about HIV transmission by reading the rest of our article above. But let’s dive into a handful of the most common kinds of questions we’ve seen over the years:
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Estimating Transmission Risk By Exposure Type
When discussing HIV risk, its important to first establish the four conditions that must take place in order for HIV transmission to occur:
Determining whether an activity is high risk or low risk is, therefore, dependent upon how efficiently an activity satisfies each of these four conditions.
Other Types Of Hiv Risks
Another less-common way HIV is transmitted in the United States is needlestick injury. This typically happens when a health care worker is accidentally jabbed by a used needle or syringe that contains HIV-positive blood. Again, this is very rare.
Thirty years ago, blood transfusions and organ donations were an especially dangerous way that some people acquired HIV. Nowadays, donated blood and organs are routinely tested.
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Does Hiv Viral Load Affect Getting Or Transmitting Hiv
Yes. Viral load is the amount of HIV in the blood of someone who has HIV. Taking HIV medicine daily as prescribed can make the viral load very lowso low that a test cant detect it .
People with HIV who take HIV medicine daily as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative partner through sex.
HIV medicine is a powerful tool for preventing sexual transmission of HIV. But it works only as long as the HIV-positive partner gets and keeps an undetectable viral load. Not everyone taking HIV medicine has an undetectable viral load. To stay undetectable, people with HIV must take HIV medicine every day as prescribed and visit their healthcare provider regularly to get a viral load test. Learn more.
Necessary Conditions For Hiv Infection
HIV is a relatively fragile virus, which is not spread by casual contact. HIV is not easy to catchit must be acquired. In order for HIV to be transmitted, three conditions must occur:
- There must be an HIV source.
- There must be a sufficient dose of virus.
- There must be access to the bloodstream of another person.
Body Fluids That Can Transmit HIV
Anyone infected with the virus is potentially a source of HIV infection. Transmission occurs primarily through infected blood, semen, vaginal secretions, or breast milk. Sweat, tears, saliva, urine, and feces are not capable of transmitting HIV unless visibly contaminated with blood.
In settings such as hospital operating rooms, other fluids such as cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, pleural fluid, pericardial fluid, and amniotic fluid may be considered infectious if the source is HIV positive. These fluids are generally not found outside the hospital setting. Therefore, the most common body fluids considered potentially infectious for HIV are blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk.
The concentration and amount of HIV necessary for infection to occur is called a sufficient dose.
Access to another persons bloodstream involves behaviors or circumstances that place someone at risk for infectious fluid entering their bloodstream. The most common of the risk behaviors are unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected person and use of contaminated equipment for injecting drugs.
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