How Do You Get HIV?


I’ve heard a lot of people talk about different ways of getting HIV, and frankly it’s beginning to seem a little scary. Is it true that if you have sex with someone who has it, you’re guaranteed to get it also? What about oral sex? What is the risk of transmission? I guess overall I just want to know how do you get HIV?

Well, it’s understandable that you’re feeling a little anxious about this. First let me start by saying that HIV is not contracted as easily as a lot of people tend to think. No, you are not guaranteed to contract HIV if you sleep with someone who has it. Yes, you can get HIV from oral sex (performing or receiving), but it is highly unlikely in most cases. Let us take a minute to explain just how exactly HIV is transmitted from one person to another.

HIV is carried in blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk. To contract HIV one must have been exposed to at least one of these fluids that is infected. However, having a mere exposure to one of these fluids does not automatically constitute a successful HIV transmission. In fact, it’s a little bit difficult. You see, HIV is not the type of virus that “digs” its way through the skin. It actually needs a direct route to the bloodstream. This is usually going to involve some type of cut or tear in the skin. The fact that HIV needs this opening is the very reason that certain groups of people experience higher rates of HIV. Take intravenous drug users for example – if they use an infected needle, that needle is puncturing their skin and directly entering the bloodstream. Another example is individuals who participate in receptive anal sex. The anal lining is extremely susceptible to tearing; thereby creating the pathway to the blood.

As I mentioned before, contracting HIV from receiving oral sex is not very probable. Saliva is not a fluid that carries HIV, so essentially the person performing oral sex would need to be actively bleeding from their mouth/lips, then that blood would need to enter through a cut/sore located on or near the receiving party’s genitals. It is definitely not a very common means of transmission.

If you are ever concerned about contracting HIV, the best thing to do is have an HIV test performed. And now that you know, the next time someone asks “how do you get HIV?”, you’ll be able to give a truthful answer.