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Transmission of HIV

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There are generally understood to be five body fluids that carry HIV:

  1. Blood
  2. Semen (cum) and Pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum)
  3. Rectal fluids
  4. Vaginal fluids
  5. Breast milk

However, HIV is not spread through everyday activities such as hugging, closed mouth kissing, or shaking hands. Further, HIV is not contracted through toilet seats, sharing drinking glasses, or touching a door knob. HIV does not reproduce in pets or insects, and is not airborne (CDC, 2012).

HIV is much more easily transmitted from a penis to an anus or a vagina. In a study by CATIE, research shows that people with vaginas are twice as likely to acquire HIV through vaginal sex than those with penises during the same types of sexual encounters. However, receptive anal intercourse, or sex where a penis is inserted into a person’s anus, creates a higher risk of HIV than vaginal intercourse. This is because the lining of the anus is thinner, and more likely to be damaged—especially during rough or forced sex. Any damage leading to blood creates a risk of HIV (AVERT). That risk increases if the individual has any other STIs, which decreases good bacteria and helper t-cells, or if the individual experiences rough or violent sexual activity, which causes abrasions in the anal or vaginal walls, leading to easy entry of HIV (AIDS Infonet). It is important to note that not every person with a vagina will identify as “female” or as a “woman.” Gender is diverse, fluid and people with vaginas may include transgender men as well as gender non-conforming individuals.