HIV is transmitted through bodily fluids. Behaviors
that increase an uninfected person's contact with infected body fluids
will increase that person's chances of contracting HIV. These behaviors
Unsafe sexual behaviors
Worldwide, unprotected sexual intercourse with an HIV-infected partner
is the most common way of getting and giving HIV (1, 2, 3). During
sex, HIV can be transmitted through cuts and tears on the penis, vagina,
or anus. Through these cuts and tears, infected blood, semen, vaginal
fluids, and anal fluids may enter the uninfected person's body.
During heterosexual contact, cuts and scrapes are
more likely during anal sex, forced sex, dry
sex, or when women are very young (because their cervixes are
not fully developed, and therefore more likely to rip or tear during
Receptive anal sex is riskier than insertive anal
Unsafe drug use
Sharing injecting drug
use (IDU) paraphernalia (“works”), such as needles
and syringes, increases the risk of HIV transmission and contraction
because the paraphernalia are often tainted with blood. This risk
is increased in areas where many drug users are also HIV+, since the
chances that any given needle has infected blood on it are higher
sex and drugs/alcohol
Sex and drugs/alcohol interact in many ways to increase a person's
risk of getting or giving HIV. When people use drugs and alcohol,
their decision-making abilities, awareness of their surroundings and
memories are altered, making them less likely to choose or remember
to practice safer sex (5).
Not taking antiretroviral
When taken on time and in the right dosages, antiretroviral drugs
can decrease the amount of HIV in an HIV+ person's body. The less
a person's viral load, the less likely he or she is to infect other
people. However, when people do not take their antiretroviral drugs
properly, they have more HIV in their systems, and are therefore more
likely to infect other people through sexual transmission or through
1. Kalichman, S.C. Preventing AIDS. A Sourcebook for Behavioral Intervention.
Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998.
2. Chin. J. (Ed.) Communicable Diseases Manual, 17th
Edition. Washington, DC: American Public Health Association, 2000.
3. Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
HIV Infection and AIDS: An Overview. National Institutes of Allergy
and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services, October 2003. Retrieved on January 14,
2004 from http://www.niaid.nih.gov/factsheets/hivinf.htm.
4. Weiss, E., Whelan, D., and Gupta, G. Vulnerability
and Opportunity: Adolescents and HIV/AIDS in the developing world.
Washington, DC: International Center for Research on Women, 1996.
5. Ostrow, D.G. Sex and Drugs and the Virus. In The
Emergence of AIDS: The Impact on Immunology, Microbiology, and Public
Health, K.H. Mayer & H.F. Pizer (eds.). Washington, DC: American
Public Health Association, 2000.