Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions
Can you tell me more about how to catch HIV?
Do you know how people catch HIV and how to avoid it?
Lisa Oldson, MD on November 21, 2011
That’s a good question. Knowing a little more about how people catch HIV is one of the first steps for reducing your risk.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) lives in the body and can be transmitted in some body fluids. Many people are confused about which body fluids can transmit HIV, so to be more specific: blood, semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk are the fluids most able to transmit HIV. Other body fluids like tears, urine or saliva don’t usually have enough HIV to pose a risk.
Some of the ways people exchange body fluids and transmit or catch HIV is through unprotected sex (including anal sex, vaginal sex and oral sex) and from intravenous drug use. Because of this, it’s always a good idea to practice safer sex by using condoms when you have sexual activity with any partner ⎼ especially if you haven’t both been tested for HIV and other STDs.
Because people with HIV can go up to 10 years without noticing any signs or symptoms from HIV, it’s important to get tested. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend HIV screening in health care settings for people ages 13 to 64.
To make HIV testing easy, we offer two HIV tests ⎼ the HIV Early Detection Test and the HIV Antibody Test. You can learn more about how testing works, or you can call a trained Care Advisor to ask specific questions.
Thanks for bringing your question about how to catch HIV to us. Good luck and good health.
Dr. Oldson is Medical Director of the Analyte Physicians Group. She is on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Clinical Instructor at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Her areas of expertise include STDs (with a particular clinical emphasis on herpes), women's health, preventive medicine, diabetes, obesity and weight management, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Oldson was educated at Rush Medical College and completed her residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.