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How is HIV transmitted?

HIV is transmitted when infected body fluids get into another person’s bloodstream. These body fluids include:

  • Blood (including menstrual blood).
  • Semen.
  • ‘Pre-cum’ (the clear liquid that comes from a man’s penis when he is sexually excited).
  • Vaginal fluid.
  • Anal mucus (the lining inside of the anus and rectum).
  • Breast milk.

The HIV virus cannot be transmitted through the air. 

Body fluids such as tears, sweat, saliva and urine do not contain enough virus to cause infection.

Virtually all HIV infections are transmitted through unprotected penetrative sex. The most common ways the virus can get into your bloodstream are:

  • Through the thin lining on or inside your anus and genitals.
  • Via cuts or sores in your skin.
  • Through the lining of your eyes and mouth.
  • By injecting (with a contaminated needle).

HIV in not transmitted by kissing or spitting. Find out more in our HIV FAQ's.