First things first, you can't catch AIDS. I've heard that statement made so many times, but it's unfounded. As mentioned in the previous post, AIDS is the disease that develops as one's immune system is ravaged by the HIV infection. As for HIV, it is not transmitted casually. You cannot contract HIV through shaking hands, hugging, or casual kissing. Also, you can't become infected from toilet seats, doorknobs, drinking glasses, dishes, food, or pets. The reason is HIV is a very fragile virus, and it is unable to live outside the body for long. According to the CDC, the primary methods of HIV transmission are as follows:

  • Having sex (vaginal, oral, anal) with an HIV-infected individual
  • Sharing needles or syringes with an HIV-infected individual
  • Being exposed to HIV (as a fetus or infant) before or after birth; breast feeding
  • Receiving blood from an HIV-infected individual through a blood transfusion

HIV is found in high concentrations in blood (and other body fluids containing blood), semen, vaginal fluid, breastmilk. HIV has been found in the saliva and tears of HIV-infected persons, but in extremely low quantities. In addition, HIV has not been found in the perspiration of those infected with HIV. In fact, contact with the saliva, sweat, or tears of someone who is infected has never been shown to result in HIV transmission.

How can you protect yourself from contracting HIV? First, there's abstinence. Not just from sex, but also from the injection of illicit drugs and sharing needles. For those who may be rolling your eyes regarding abstinence, I know you're thinking, "This is not Health class in High School. Be real." If you do plan to be sexually active, or already are, make sure that you use a latex condom every time you have sex. Not just on holidays or on weekends, every time. Also, if possible, keep your sexual relationships monogamous. Your risk of infection increases as you increase your amount of sexual partners. If you do make the choice to inject drugs, make sure that you are consistently using clean needles and syringes. NEVER share your needles with anyone.

If you are engaging in either the above or any other potentially risky activities, please ensure that you are getting tested for HIV regularly, at least every six months. Even if you aren't engaged in the activities, but know someone who is, share this information with him/her. If you are looking for further information on how HIV is transmitted and the different ways to protect yourself and others, visit