Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!


Casual Contact Not a Culprit of HIV/AIDS

One method for limiting HIV transmission is syringe exchange, which involves providing drug users with sterile syringes in exchange for their used ones. While there is considerable research data showing that syringe exchange is effective in limiting the spread of AIDS among drug users, some people feel very uncomfortable with providing drug users with syringes.

The public health debate over syringe exchange is ongoing. Additionally, there has been controversy over the ability of HIV/AIDS to be transmitted through casual contact, such as shaking hands.

Further, some people have feared that mosquitoes or other biting insects might transmit HIV. Considerable scientific research has shown that HIV/AIDS is not transmitted through casual contact unless blood from one person passes into the body of the other.

Likewise, hugging, shaking hands with, or even sharing eating utensils with a person infected with HIV is not a risk for HIV infection, nor can biting insects transmit the virus.

Finally, HIV is not and never has been transmitted by donating blood. Prior to the treatment of the blood supply, it was possible to become infected through receiving a blood transfusion, but controls on blood banks in the U.S. have all but eliminated this risk.

While HIV/AIDS is a significant health risk, it is possible to protect yourself from becoming infected. Proper use of latex condoms during oral, anal, or vaginal sex, is the most effective way to avoid possible infection for those who are sexually active.

Abstinence from sex is another approach, although it is not one that many adults choose. When having sex, it is important to accept that you cannot tell by looking whether someone is infected with HIV/AIDS. AIDS does not discriminate. It will infect rich and poor people, people of all races and nationalities, gay and straight people, men and women, adults and children.