The HIV virus is spread through contact with HIV-infected blood or other body fluids. This includes semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk.
AIDS is caused by the destruction of T cells. The destruction is caused by the HIV virus.
HIV destroys white blood cells vital to the immune system.
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HIV is spread through:
- Sexual contact with an HIV-infected person, especially intercourse or anal sex
- Transfer of HIV from a mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding
- A prick from an HIV-contaminated needle
with HIV-infected blood (rare today, due to testing of all donated blood for HIV infection beginning in 1985)
Rarely, HIV can be spread through:
- Blood from an HIV-infected person getting into an open wound of another person
- Being bitten by someone infected with HIV
- Sharing personal hygiene items with an HIV-infected person (razors, toothbrushes, etc)
Factors that increase your chance of getting HIV include:
- Having multiple sexual partners
- Sharing needles for injecting drugs
- Having regular exposure to HIV-contaminated blood or other body fluids (a concern for healthcare workers)
- Being born to an HIV-infected mother
- Receiving donor blood products, tissue, organs, or artificial insemination
- Being an immigrants from geographic locations with high numbers of AIDS patients (east central Africa and Haiti)
- Having a sexual relationship with a high-risk individual or a partner already infected with HIV
The risk factor for AIDS is having HIV.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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