How Does HIV Spread?

Learn how to protect yourself and your partners from HIV.

Did you know? Approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. have HIV, and 13% don’t know it.

HIV has changed many lives but not for the worst. Although HIV can’t be cured, it can be prevented and treated. If you’re sexually active, make sure you know how HIV spreads and how you can prevent it. 

How is HIV Spread?

HIV can’t be spread through saliva, sweat, tears, or through the air. The following are some of the most common ways HIV spreads:

Anal sex

Anal sex presents the highest risk for spreading HIV. HIV can enter the body through the lining of the rectum, the tip of the penis, urethra, foreskin, minor cuts, and scratches. A receiving partner (bottom) has a higher chance of getting HIV than a giving partner (top). 

Vaginal sex

You can also get/give HIV if you have unprotected vaginal sex with someone who has HIV. Vaginal sex allows HIV to be passed between partners as fluids and blood can carry it. HIV is spread through the mucous membranes in the vagina and cervix.

Drug injection equipment

You have a higher risk of getting HIV when you share drug injection methods, like needles, with someone who has HIV. Needles can carry blood, which spreads HIV from one partner to another.

Knowing how HIV spreads will allow you to make educated decisions that are right for your health and your sex life. Remember: HIV can be passed between any set of sexual partners through the ways mentioned above, no matter who you are. 

Visit for more information, resources, HIV testing, and more. 

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