20.5  Modes of transmission of HIV

Now you know what HIV does once it has infected someone. But how is HIV transmitted from person to person? Getting infected with HIV does not happen as easily as, for instance, infection by the viruses that cause measles or influenza, which are transmitted in airborne droplets, typically during normal social contact with an infected person.

HIV needs ‘transport’ to get into the body of another person. This ‘transport’ can be blood, semen (the male sexual secretion containing sperm), vaginal fluid, or breastmilk.

  • Suggest some ways in which these transport media could be transferred from one person to another.

  • HIV can be transmitted through sexual intercourse with an infected person; through transfusion of contaminated blood, or blood products, in medical treatment; through sharing of needles, syringes and cutting or perforating objects contaminated by HIV-infected blood or body fluids; through the blood of an infected mother passing into the baby during pregnancy or delivery; and finally through the breastmilk of an infected mother being fed to the baby.

We will look briefly at each of these routes in turn, but you will discover more details in later study sessions.

20.4.2  Clinical staging of HIV disease and AIDS

20.5.1  Transmission through sexual relations