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Questions and answers about HIV transmission

Posted Oct 04 2009 11:14pm
What are the main routes of HIV transmission?
These are the main ways in which someone can become infected with HIV:
1.Unprotected penetrative sex with someone who is infected.

2.Injection or transfusion of contaminated blood or blood products, donations of semen (artificial insemination), skin grafts or organ transplants taken from someone who is infected.

3.From a mother who is infected to her baby; this can occur during pregnancy, at birth and through breastfeeding.

4.Sharing unsterilised injection equipment that has previously been used by someone who is infected.

Can I become infected with HIV through normal social contact/activities such as shaking hands/toilet seats/swimming pools/sharing cutlery/kissing/sneezes and coughs?

No. HIV is not an airborne, water-borne or food-borne virus, and does not survive for very long outside the human body. Therefore ordinary social contact such as kissing, shaking hands, coughing and sharing cutlery does not result in the virus being passed from one person to another.
Can I become infected with HIV from needles on movie/cinema seats?

There have been a number of stories circulating via the Internet and e-mail, about people becoming infected from needles left on cinema seats and in coin return slots. These rumours appear to have no factual basis.
For HIV infection to take place in this way the needle would need to contain infected blood with a high level of infectious virus. If a person was then pricked with an infected needle, they could become infected, but there is still only a 0.4% chance of this happening.
Although discarded needles can transfer blood and blood-borne illnesses such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV, the risk of infection taking place in this way is extremely low.
There is a wide spread belief among 'negative' people that HIV positive persons will try deliberately to spread the disease.There is no factual basis for this belief.

Is there a risk of HIV transmission when having a tattoo, body piercing or visiting the barbers?
If instruments contaminated with blood are not sterilised between clients then there is a risk of HIV transmission. However, people who carry out body piercing or tattooing should follow procedures called 'universal precautions', which are designed to prevent the transmission of blood borne infections such as HIV and Hepatitis B.
When visiting the barbers there is no risk of infection unless the skin is cut and infected blood gets into the wound. Traditional 'cut-throat' razors used by barbers now have disposable blades, which should only be used once, thus eliminating the risk from blood-borne infections such as Hepatitis and HIV.

Am I at risk of becoming infected with HIV when visiting the doctor or dentist?
Transmission of HIV in a healthcare setting is extremely rare. All health professionals are required to follow infection control procedures when caring for any patient. These procedures are called universal precautions for infection control. They are designed to protect both patients and healthcare professionals from the transmission of blood-borne diseases such as Hepatitis B and HIV.

Can I get HIV from a mosquito?
No, it is not possible to get HIV from mosquitoes. When taking blood from someone, mosquitoes do not inject blood from any previous person. The only thing that a mosquito injects is saliva, which acts as a lubricant and enables it to feed more efficiently.

Can I become infected with HIV through biting?
Infection with HIV in this way is unusual. There have only been a couple of documented cases of HIV transmission resulting from biting. In these particular cases, severe tissue tearing and damage were reported in addition to the presence of blood.

Can HIV be transmitted outside of the body?
Whilst HIV may live for a short while outside of the body, HIV transmission has not been reported as a result of contact with spillages or small traces of blood, semen or other bodily fluids. This is partly because HIV dies quite quickly once exposed to the air, and also because spilled fluids would have to get into a person's bloodstream to infect them.
Scientists agree that HIV does not survive well in the environment, making the chance of environmental transmission remote. To obtain data on the survival of HIV, laboratory studies usually use artificially high concentrations of laboratory-grown virus. Although these concentrations of HIV can be kept alive for days or even weeks under controlled conditions, studies have shown that drying of these high concentrations of HIV reduces the amount of infectious virus by 90 to 99 percent within a few hours.
Since the HIV concentrations used in laboratory studies are much higher than those actually found in blood or other specimens, the real risk of HIV infection from dried bodily fluids is probably close to zero.

Does circumcision protect against HIV?
There is very strong evidence showing that circumcised men are about half as likely as uncircumcised men to acquire HIV through heterosexual sex. However, circumcision does not make a man immune to HIV infection, it just means that it's less likely to happen. Male circumcision probably has little or no preventive benefit for women.

If I am taking antiretroviral drugs and have an 'undetectable' viral load, am I still infectious?
Even if your tests show that you have very low levels of HIV in your blood, the virus will not have been totally eradicated and you will still be capable of infecting others. Some drugs do not penetrate the genitals very well and so do not disable HIV as effectively there as they do in the blood. This means that while you may have little active virus showing up on blood tests, there may still be quite a lot of HIV in your semen or vaginal fluids. Transmission may be less likely when you have a low viral load, but it is still possible so you should always take appropriate precautions.
Courtesy- Avert.org
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