Risk Factors for HIV Infection

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Risk Factors for HIV Infection

Topic Overview

Most people get HIV by having unprotected sex with someone who has HIV. HIV can be spread even through unprotected oral sex.1 Another common way of getting the virus is when injecting drugs and sharing needles with someone who is infected with HIV.

You have an increased risk of becoming infected with HIV through sexual contact if you:

  • Have unprotected sex (do not use condoms).
  • Have multiple sex partners.
  • Are a man who has sex with other men.
  • Have high-risk partner(s) (partner has multiple sex partners, is a man who has sex with other men, or injects drugs).
  • Have or have recently had a sexually transmitted infection, such as syphilis or active herpes.

People who inject drugs or steroids, especially if they share needles, syringes, cookers, or other equipment used to inject drugs, are at risk of being infected with HIV.

Babies who are born to mothers who are infected with HIV are also at risk of infection.

What to think about

HIV may be spread more easily in the early stage of infection, when the first flu-like symptoms of HIV (acute retroviral syndrome) are present, and again later, if symptoms of HIV-related illness develop.

The risk of getting HIV from a blood transfusion or a donated organ is extremely low in Canada and the United States. All donated blood and organs are screened for HIV antibodies and HIV RNA, which can detect HIV before antibodies develop.

Some expert groups recommend HIV screening as part of routine blood testing. You and your doctor can decide if testing is right for you.

References

Citations

  1. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2009). Oral sex and HIV risk: CDC HIV/AIDS facts. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/factsheets/oralsex.htm.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter Shalit, MD, PhD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Last Revised August 23, 2010

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