You may be exposed to HIV if you:
1) Have unprotected (no condom) penetrative anal or vaginal sex, OR
2) Share IV drug equipment with other IV drug users.
It’s really as simple as that. HIV can also be passed from an infected mother to an unborn child, or to a newborn through breastfeeding.
You cannot get HIV from:
1) Having penetrative sex with a condom that does not visibly break. Don’t bother filling your condom with water after sex. Fabled “microscopic” or “tiny” holes in condoms aren’t a cause of HIV transmission. If a condom breaks, you will know – it will be hard to remove. A condom that slips, but still covers the head of your penis, prevents HIV.
2) Having penetrative sex with a CSW with a condom. This is surprisingly safe. CSWs are tested much more regularly than most people. They don’t want STDs or HIV, because that’s bad for business. They usually provide quality condoms to protect themselves from their clients, not to protect you.
3) Kissing, with or without bleeding gums or other mouth sores. Saliva inhibits the virus, and HIV must enter the bloodstream. If you had oral injuries sufficient to allow HIV into the blood stream, you would be unable to engage in oral sex.
4) Licking or sucking breasts, with or without breast milk. HIV doesn’t “live” on skin, and breast milk is only a source of infection to newborns, who lack sufficient immune systems.
5) A penis rubbing an anus or vagina without penetration, with or without semen or vaginal fluids even with a wound. HIV simply doesn’t transmit that way. No penetration = no risk.
6) Receiving oral sex, with or without blood present in the giver. Again, saliva inhibits the virus, and no one has ever been infected by receiving oral sex.
7) Hand jobs, with or without cuts present. HIV doesn’t “live” on hands or other skin. A wound on the penis that would allow HIV into the blood stream would make it impossibly painful to receive a hand job.
8) Minor wound-to-wound contact. If you have a cut or scrape and it isn’t bleeding to the point of needing medical attention, and the other person has the same, you aren’t getting HIV this way.
9) Fingering, with or without cuts – see above. If you had a finger wound sufficient to allow HIV entry to your bloodstream, you would definitely not be fingering anyone.
10) Getting cut by sharp objects. HIV loses its ability to infect almost immediately after being exposed to air. If an HIV-positive person got cut by a piece of glass, got cut at a barber shop, got pricked by a staple, reused nailclippers, etc., then you got cut or priced by the same object, you are not at risk. Again, HIV must enter the bloodstream, which doesn’t happen via superficial cuts or scrapes.
11) Reused needles. The reason for this is simply that hospitals and clinics, even in the poorest countries, do NOT reuse needles – they can’t afford it. A needle that costs 3 cents (US) isn’t worth reusing due to the risks of bacterial infection, Hepatitis, and HIV, just to name a few. The costs to the healthcare system of treating these illnesses is tremendous. Everyone knows of these risks, and thus it’s just not worth the financial risk to reuse a 3-cent needle. Even if you think they don’t care about your safety, they care about cost.
12) Reused lancets, etc. – see above. Additionally, HIV must enter the bloodstream. This means that someone would have to inject blood INTO you – not take it out of you. Blood draws are not a risk.
13) Used towels, shaking hands, touching money, touching any item with blood on it, hugging someone (even if naked) - HIV does not “live” on skin or on objects.
14) Getting jabbed by a needle by a random person, or stepping on a needle. This simply doesn’t happen. If you think you got jabbed, you didn’t. Anyone who isn’t a professional can’t effectively jab you without you knowing – FOR SURE – that you were injected. The needle would need to go deep and would have to inject blood into you. It would hurt like crazy. If you stepped on a needle, it would go very, very deep – to the point where you’d have to sit down and pull it out.
15) Giving oral sex – this presents an extremely low risk. Expert HIV physicians Drs. Hook and Handsfield state: “The risk of HIV, if your partner is HIV-positive, is around 1 in 10,000. That's equivalent to giving BJs to infected men once daily for 27 years before transmission might be likely.” Neither recommend testing. I suggest that you give events like this the same concern as you might to being trampled in an elephant (which is probably none). PLEASE NOTE: giving oral sex does present a risk for STDs. Please post there: http://www.medhelp.org/forums/STDs/show/98
If you believe you were exposed:
1) Visit an infectious disease specialist or STD clinic ASAP. They can advise you about your level of risk and potentially prescribe medication that inhibits the virus.
2) Remain calm. Remember that most people aren’t HIV+ and the virus is relatively difficult to get. STAY OFF THE INTERNET. Searching for symptoms will only fuel anxiety.
3) Remember that symptoms cannot be used to diagnose HIV. Most symptoms of ARS (Acute Retroviral Syndrome) are symptoms of common, minor illnesses. The only way to know your status is through testing.
4) Test at the proper time. A duo (or combo, or ab/ag) test is accurate at 28 days. Others take as long as 12 weeks for conclusive accuracy. Once you’ve tested at the proper time, STOP TESTING. Modern tests are very accurate and don’t “miss” HIV. Delayed seroconversion is a myth. If you continue to test, you’ll only doubt the results, and run the risk of getting a false positive result. Anyone who states that you have to wait 6 months for a conclusive result if providing outdated information.
It’s ultimately your health. If you believe you had a risk, just get tested for HIV and be certain. But once you get a conclusive result (as stated in item 4 above), stop searching for evidence that you may have HIV. You don’t. Anxiety is real, guilt is real, and stress is real, and each can cause all sorts of physical symptoms - none of these mean you have HIV. If you have tested conclusive negative, you are negative regardless of guilt and/or symptoms. Enjoy life, and all it has to offer!