Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
HIV is not spread easily, but anyone has the potential to be infected—the virus does not seek out a certain type of individual. Too often, HIV is transmitted by those who don’t know they are living with HIV. It’s your responsibility to know your status. If you are sexually active, we encourage you to be tested for HIV on a regular basis.
HIV is transmitted through shared bodily fluids:
- semen (cum)
- pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum)
- vaginal secretions
- rectal fluids
- breast milk
Transmission occurs when these fluids containing HIV come in contact with mucous membranes within the body or are directly injected into the bloodstream—from a needle or syringe. Mucous membranes are found inside the urethra, cervix and vagina, anus and rectum, and mouth.
HIV is most commonly transmitted by:
- having penetrative anal or vaginal sex with someone who has HIV without using a condom or taking medication to treat or prevent HIV
- sharing syringes or other equipment used to prepare injection drugs with someone who has HIV
HOW HIV IS NOT TRANSMITTED
HIV is not spread through the air or on surfaces. HIV is not transmitted by:
- saliva, sweat, or tears
- bodily contact that does not include the exchange of bodily fluids, such as shaking hands, hugging, kissing, or sharing dishes, toilets, or drinking fountains
- air or water
- insect bites, such as mosquitoes or ticks
Vulnerability for Infection
It is common to reference people who are at “high-risk” and “low-risk” for HIV infection. TPAN believes this concept of “riskiness” is stigmatizing—it attributes infection as a result of a stigmatized behavior, rather than identifying a potential exposure. Certain groups of people are known to have a higher propensity for HIV-infection. This applies regardless of individual behavior.
Statistics show the most affected groups to be:
- Men who have sex with men (MSM)
- African Americans
- Injection drug users
- Sex workers, including anyone who exchanges sex for goods
- The transgender community, particularly African American transgender women
PrEP and PEP
There are a number of medication options to prevent the transmission of HIV.
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a prescription medication that reduces the likelihood of an infection if exposed to HIV. When used daily, PrEP reduces the chance of HIV infection by up to 99%. Learn more about PrEP or contact us for a prescription.
PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) is an emergency treatment for HIV-negative individuals who may have been exposed to the HIV virus. PEP involves taking HIV medications as soon as possible after a possible exposure to stop HIV from spreading throughout your body. PEP should only be used in emergency situations and must be started within 72 hours after a recent possible exposure to HIV.
If you think you’ve been exposed and need a PEP prescription, contact our office for a health care or emergency room referral, or call the PEP Warmline at 888-448-4911
HIV Treatment Reduces Transmission
Successful HIV-treatment helps prevent transmission of HIV to other people. An HIV-positive person, who is on successful antiretroviral therapy and has an undetectable viral load, has a negligible or near zero chance of passing on the virus. Recent studies show that treatment as prevention (TasP) is vital to ending new infections of HIV. For TasP to work, those who are HIV-positive need to know their status and be on effective therapy.
Read more about treatment options or attend an educational group for more information.