How is it transmitted? Risky Behaviors

1)Sexual Transmission is the most common transmission way of HIV infection. Infection can enter the body during unprotected anal or vaginal sex. HIV can be transmitted by people of all sexual orientations: Heterosexuals (people who have sex with people of the opposite sex), homosexuals (people who have sex with people of their own sex), bisexuals (people who have sex with both men and women).

Even a sexual encounter with someone living with HIV might suffice for transmission. As the number of unprotected sexual intercourse increase, so does the possibility of transmission. Unprotected vaginal and anal sexual intercourses differ. Unprotected anal sexual encounter poses more risk.

2)Blood-borne Transmission may occur via transfusion of infected blood and blood products, or tissue or organ transplants. However, when the antibodies in the blood that developed against the virus began to be detected in 1985, HIV-testing of the blood and blood products before the transfusion has become a legal obligation. Therefore, blood-borne transmission significantly decreased in the later years.

Utilization of shared needles/syringes by IV drug users may also cause blood-borne transmission since it involves blood exchange.

3) Vertical Transmission may occur during pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. Unless necessary measures are taken, there’s a possibility of transmission by 20-30%. However, if a mother living with HIV continues treatment during her pregnancy, this ratio drops below 0.5%. With treatment and necessary precautions during and after pregnancy, vertical transmission has been completely ceased in Cuba. With the condition of taking the treatment, pregnant women living with HIV can now give birth with their doctor’s approval. After the birth, the baby needs to take protective treatment and be under doctor’s care for a certain period of time. The mother should not breastfeed the baby since HIV may be transmitted via breastfeeding.

3.3. Ways HIV is not transmitted

HIV is not transmitted via body fluids such as sweat, saliva, urine, tear, nor particles expelled during sneeze or cough, nor by using the same plate, fork, knife, towel, toilet or shower, nor via mosquito or bug bites, nor social behaviors such as handshaking, hugging, kissing or being in the same room.

HIV loses its infectiousness outdoors, short after it’s exposed to air and sun.

Risky Behaviors

Given the transmission ways of HIV, sexual activities are the most risky behaviors.

All sexual activities enabling the transmission of sexual fluids are risky for HIV transmission. Unprotected anal and vaginal sex are the most risky sexual activities. Kissing has no risk by means of HIV transmission. Although HIV exists in saliva, it’s not capable of HIV transmission on its own. And blood in saliva is one of the risky issues that many people with HIV concerns can think of. But that kind of transmission is not realistic.

Blood transfusions directly cause HIV transmission. Therefore, as per the memorandum issued by the Ministry of Health, HIV scan for all blood transfusions has become a legal obligation since 1987. In need of blood transfusion, providing the blood from centers designated by Ministry of Health is very important.

It’s highly crucial that blood donors answer the pre-donation questionnaire correctly and do not become a blood donor for HIV testing.

Using the same needle/syringe, which IV drug users tend to do so, is another risky behavior that causes HIV transmission via direct blood transmission. Using a sterilized needle/syringe is one of the important factors in prevention of HIV transmission. Accordingly, some countries developed the “syringe exchange programs”. 

One of the risky behaviors of indirect HIV transmission is the use of other non-IV stimulants and drugs. Although they don’t cause direct HIV transmission, they cause debility in control mechanism, generate excessive and unnecessary confidence which lead to risky outcomes such as abandonment of protection habit. Abandonment of protection habit due to oral or inhaled use of all chemical substances during sex is one of the important details in counselees’ stories.

Although not a direct protection method, monogamy is a life style that reduces the possibility of HIV infection. Since unprotected sex habit and polygamous life style increase the risk of HIV infection, polygamy is one of the indirect risk factors. But if you suspect that your partner might be polygamous even you’re monogamous, make sure to take HIV test once a year.

Not having physical examinations during pregnancy, skipping HIV scan tests, women living with HIV’s discontinuation or interruption of treatment, performing a natural birth for a pregnant woman living with HIV, not providing postnatal protective treatment for the baby, and breastfeeding of a mother living with HIV are risky behaviors in terms of vertical transmission.