December 31st, 2013
The most common route of HIV transmission is unprotected and risky sexual activity.
Anal, oral, or vaginal sex with a HIV infected partner will expose one to infected body fluids which can deliver the virus into the other partner’s body. The virus then enters the body through microscopic breaks or rips in the delicate linings of the vagina, vulva, penis, rectum, or mouth.
The risk of acquiring HIV is usually higher if there is a preexisting sexually transmitted disease (STD). Preexisting active STDs or not completely healed sores and skin lesions increase the risk of HIV virus entering the body and makes the transmission many folds easier.
Use of injectable drugs is another common route of transmission. If used needles are inserted into the skin and veins, viruses sitting in and on the needle easily enter the blood stream causing immediate pathogen transmission and infection.
HIV transmission can also happen from the mother to the child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding. During pregnancy the fetus is in direct contact with infected bodily fluids of the mother- including amniotic fluid- and after child birth a potentially healthy child may inquire HIV by drinking infected mother’s milk.
Healthcare workers belong to the highly at risk occupation groups with the greatest risk of HIV transmission. Contact with infected blood or other fluids through needle sticks or cuts may expose the healthcare professionals to HIV transmission and infection. There have also been a few reported cases of HIV transmission through splashed body fluids into the eyes, mouth, or into an open sore or cut.
When the knowledge about HIV infections and the route of transmission was not as advanced as today, blood transfusions with infected blood or organ transplants of infected donors used to be another route of infection. Advancements in research and rigorous screening tests have been able to mostly eliminate these forms of HIV transmission in the US and other developed countries.
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