How is HIV passed from one person to another?

HIV can be detected in several fluids and tissue of a person living with HIV. It is important to understand however, that finding a small amount of HIV in a body fluid or tissue does not mean that HIV is transmitted by that body fluid or tissue. Only specific fluids (blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk) from an HIV-infected person can transmit HIV. These specific fluids must come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into the blood-stream (from a needle or syringe) for transmission to possibly occur.

In Shanghai, HIV is most commonly transmitted through specific sexual behaviors (anal or vaginal sex) or sharing needles with an infected person. It is less common for HIV to be transmitted through oral sex or for an HIV-infected woman to pass the virus to her baby before or during childbirth or after birth through breastfeeding or by prechewing food for her infant. It is also possible to acquire HIV through exposure to infected blood, transfusions of infected blood, blood products, or organ transplantation.

Some healthcare workers have become infected after being stuck with needles containing HIV-infected blood or, less frequently, when infected blood comes in contact with a worker's open cut or is splashed into a worker's eyes or inside their nose. There has been only one instance of patients being infected by an HIV-infected dentist.

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