There are only a few ways you can pass on HIV and these are the only ways it is possible to transmit the virus between people. You CANNOT get HIV from kissing, cuddling, or sharing drinks, plates or toilet seats.

To pass on HIV, first of all you must have a detectable viral load, so if you are undetectable there is NO WAY you can pass it on. Even if you have a detectable viral load, there must be a direct way for the virus to get into another person’s blood stream – a bit like going through a door. Getting HIV infected blood on your skin or clothes etc is not a risk. It needs to get into your body (through a cut, tear in the skin or through a mucous membrane. These are parts of the body with wet, absorbent skin such as eyes, mouth, vagina, head of the penis, inside of the anus.)

Outside of the body, HIV can’t generally survive for very long. Coming into contact with blood or semen that has been outside the body doesn’t usually pose a risk for HIV transmission. Likewise, passing on HIV to someone else if you have a detectable viral load and cut yourself is also very low. If you wash any blood away with soap and hot water and cover the wound with a sticking plaster or dressing, this will protect yourself and others. 

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HIV can be passed on through:


A really simple way to pass on HIV would be by a blood transfusion, where HIV infected blood is put straight into someone else’s blood stream. In most places in the world now, blood is checked before it is given to other people. In the past lots of people got HIV through blood transfusions but this was before it was known how the virus was passed on.

Semen, vaginal fluids and anal mucus

If an HIV positive person has sex without a condom, and they do not have an undetectable viral load, HIV can get into the other persons blood because it lives in the semen, vaginal fluid and anal mucus. There does need to be a tear or graze in the other person for the HIV to enter into their body. A condom stops any fluid being passed to the other person, and it also stops unwanted pregnancy and getting other sexually transmitted infections. 


If one person has HIV and they inject themselves with a needle, and then another person injects themselves with the same needle directly after, they can pass on HIV. So never share needles.

Breast milk

HIV can be found in breast milk, so if a mother has HIV it is recommended she shouldn’t breastfeed her baby unless it has been advised as safe to do so by a medical professional. Further information can be found here: HIV and Breastfeeding your baby & General information on infant feeding for women living with HIV