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Basic Questions and Answers About HIV Transmission

January 16, 2015

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Can I Get HIV From Receiving Medical Care?

Although HIV transmission is possible in health care settings, it is extremely rare.

Careful practice of infection control, including universal precautions (i.e., using protective practices and personal protective equipment to prevent HIV and other blood-borne infections) protects patients as well as health care providers from possible HIV transmission in medical and dental offices and hospitals.

The risk of getting HIV from receiving blood transfusions, blood products, or organ/tissue transplants that are contaminated with HIV is extremely small because of rigorous testing of the US blood supply and donated organs and tissues.

It is important to know that you cannot get HIV from donating blood. Blood collection procedures are highly regulated and safe.

For more information on preventing occupational exposure to HIV, see the CDC fact sheet, Occupational HIV Transmission and Prevention Among Health Care Workers. For more information on blood and tissue donations, see's Blood Transfusions and Organ Donation.


Can I Get HIV From Casual Contact ("Social Kissing," Shaking Hands, Hugging, Using a Toilet, Drinking From the Same Glass or the Sneezing and Coughing of an Infected Person)?

No. HIV is not spread by day-to-day contact in the workplace, schools, or social settings. HIV is not spread through shaking hands, hugging, or a casual kiss. You cannot become infected from a toilet seat, a drinking fountain, a door knob, dishes, drinking glasses, food, cigarettes, pets, or insects.

HIV is not spread through the air, and it does not live long outside the body.

Can I Get HIV From a Tattoo or a Body Piercing?

Tattooing or body piercing present a potential risk of HIV transmission, but no cases of HIV transmission from these activities have been documented. Be sure that only new needles, ink, and other supplies are used and that the person doing the procedure is properly licensed.

Can I Get HIV From Being Spit on or Scratched by an HIV-Infected Person?

No. HIV cannot be spread through saliva, and there is no documented case of transmission from an HIV-infected person spitting on another person. There is no risk of transmission from scratching because there is no transfer of body fluids between people.

Can I Get HIV From Mosquitoes?

No. There is no evidence of HIV transmission from mosquitoes or any other insects -- even in areas where there are many cases of HIV and large populations of mosquitoes. Unlike organisms that are transmitted by insect bites, HIV does not reproduce (and does not survive) in insects.

Can I Get HIV From Food?

Except for rare cases in which children consumed food that was pre-chewed by an HIV-infected caregiver, HIV has not been spread through food. The virus does not live long outside the body. You cannot get it from consuming food handled by an HIV-infected person; even if the food contained small amounts of HIV-infected blood or semen, exposure to the air, heat from cooking, and stomach acid would destroy the virus.

Are Lesbians or Other Women Who Have Sex With Women at Risk for HIV?

Case reports of female-to-female transmission of HIV are rare. The well-documented risk of female-to-male transmission shows that vaginal fluids and menstrual blood may contain the virus and that exposure to these fluids through mucous membranes (in the vagina or mouth) could, potentially, lead to HIV infection.

Is the Risk of HIV Different for Different People?

Although HIV risk factors and routes of transmission apply to everyone equally, some people are at higher risk because of where they live and who their sex partners are.

The percentage of people living with HIV (prevalence) is higher in major metropolitan areas, so people who live there are more likely to encounter an HIV-positive person among their possible sex partners. (This atlas shows the prevalence of HIV for all US communities.) In the same way, because the prevalence of HIV is higher among gay and bisexual men and among black and Latino men and women, members of these groups are more likely to encounter partners who are living with HIV.

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This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.