HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It weakens a person’s immune system by destroying important cells that fight disease and infection. There is currently no effective cure for HIV. But with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled.
Most people who get HIV get it through anal or vaginal sex, or sharing needles, syringes, or other drug injection equipment (for example, cookers).
What are some rare ways that HIV has been transmitted? There is little to no risk of getting HIV from the activities below. For transmission to occur, something very unusual would have to happen.
Oral sex involves putting the mouth on the penis (fellatio), vagina (cunnilingus), or anus (rimming).
Factors that may affect this risk include ejaculation in the mouth with oral ulcers, bleeding gums, or genital sores, and the presence of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
You can get other STDs from oral sex. And if you get feces in your mouth during anilingus, you can get hepatitis A and B, parasites like Giardia, and bacteria like Shigella, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and E. coli.
The most likely cause is being stuck with a contaminated needle or another sharp object.
Careful practice of standard precautions protects patients and health care personnel from possible occupational HIV transmission.
The US blood supply and donated organs and tissues are thoroughly tested, so it is very unlikely that you would get HIV from blood transfusions, blood products, or organ and tissue transplants.
You cannot get HIV from donating blood. Blood collection procedures are highly regulated and safe.
The only known cases are among infants. Contamination occurs when blood from a caregiver’s mouth mixes with food that is pre-chewed before feeding to an infant.
You can’t get HIV from consuming food handled by someone with HIV.
Each of the very small number of documented cases has involved severe trauma with extensive tissue damage and the presence of blood. Transmission can occur when there is contact between broken skin, wounds, or mucous membranes and blood or body fluids mixed with the blood of a person who has HIV.
There is no risk of transmission if the skin is not broken.
Deep, Open-Mouth Kissing
Although very rare, transmission can occur if both partners have sores or bleeding gums and blood from the partner with HIV gets into the bloodstream of the HIV-negative partner.
HIV is not transmitted through closed-mouth or “social” kissing with someone who has HIV.
HIV is not transmitted through saliva.
Case reports of female-to-female transmission of HIV are rare.
Vaginal fluids and menstrual blood may carry the virus and exposure to these fluids through mucous membranes (in the vagina or mouth) could potentially lead to HIV infection.
Tattoos and Body Piercings
There are no known cases in the United States of anyone getting HIV this way.
However, it is possible to get HIV from tattooing or body piercing if the equipment used for these procedures has someone else’s blood in it or if the ink is shared. This is more likely to happen when the person doing the procedure is unlicensed because of the potential for unsanitary practices such as sharing needles or ink.
If you get a tattoo or a body piercing, be sure that the person doing the procedure is properly licensed and that they use only new or sterilized needles, ink, and other supplies.