HIV is primarily found in the blood, semen, or vaginal fluid of an infected person. The most common ways that HIV is transmitted from one person to another are by having sex (vaginal, oral, or anal) with an HIV-infected person without protection.
HIV can be transmitted through contaminated blood or blood products, and by sharing needles, syringes or injection equipment with an injecting drug user who is infected with HIV.
HIV can be spread from HIV-infected women to their babies before or during birth, or through breast-feeding after birth (15-40%).
Acute HIV infection is the earliest stage of HIV infection, and it generally develops within 2 to 4 weeks after infection with HIV. During this time, some people have flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, and rash.
The second stage of HIV infection is chronic HIV infection. During this stage, HIV continues to multiply in the body but at very low levels. People with chronic HIV infection may not have any HIV-related symptoms. Without antiretroviral therapy, chronic HIV infection usually advances to AIDS in 10 years or longer.
AIDS is the most severe phase of HIV infection. People with AIDS have such badly damaged immune systems that they get an increasing number of severe illnesses, called opportunistic illnesses.
Maintaining a mutually monogamous relationship can reduce but not eliminate the risk of HIV infection. Proper and consistent use of a condom.
Do not share needles, syringes or any other injecting equipment.
Do not touch the blood or the wound directly.
For pregnant women or women planning to be, get tested for HIV as soon as possible. Drug treatments are available to reduce the chance of passing HIV to the baby.