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HIV Transmission


It is important to take safety precautions to prevent the transmission (spread) of HIV. HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is an infection that slowly weakens your immune system. Over time, a weak immune system makes it difficult for you to fight infections. Common signs and symptoms of HIV infection include chronic diarrhea, weight loss without trying, and skin rashes or lesions.


Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:

  • You have shortness of breath.
  • You have chest pain.
  • You are so depressed you feel you cannot cope any longer.
  • You have problems seeing.
  • You are so weak that you cannot stand up.

Call your doctor if:

  • You cannot think clearly.
  • You have a severe headache or a stiff neck.
  • You have problems with balance, walking, or speech.
  • You have weakness in an arm or leg.
  • You are not able to drink liquids.
  • You are having side effects from your medicines that make you want to stop taking them.
  • You have a fever, chills, or night sweats.
  • You have swollen lymph nodes in your neck, jaw, armpit, or groin.
  • You are more tired than usual.
  • You have diarrhea that does not get better.
  • You have lost more than 10 pounds in a short period of time.
  • You bruise or bleed easily.
  • You have white spots or sores in your mouth, throat, vagina, or rectum.
  • You have a cough, shortness of breath, or chest tightness.
  • You notice changes in your monthly period.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Antiretroviral medicines help prevent HIV if you have been exposed. They must be taken for 28 days, unless your healthcare provider tells you otherwise. You may be given medicine for the full 28 days, or you may get a starter pack with enough medicine for 1 to 7 days. If you receive a starter pack, you must return to your healthcare provider in 1 to 7 days. At this visit, you will receive the rest of the medicine.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him of her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

It is important to follow up with your healthcare provider to reduce the risk of an HIV infection. You may need tests at 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months after the exposure. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Prevent the spread of HIV through body fluid:

Seek care immediately if you think you may have been exposed to HIV. Drug treatments are available after exposure to HIV. The following are ways to protect yourself from HIV infection or to protect others if you are HIV-positive:

  • Get screened for HIV. Everyone aged 13 to 64 years should be screened for HIV at least once. Men who have sex with men should be screened every year.
  • Tell healthcare providers if you are HIV-positive. Include all healthcare providers, such as your doctor, dentist, and anyone taking a blood sample.
  • Be careful with body fluids. Body fluids of an infected person should never get near the mouth, eyes, anus, or open skin cuts of others. Sores, cuts, blood, or body fluids should not be touched by anyone not wearing gloves.
  • Do not donate blood or tissue if you are HIV-positive. Do not donate blood or blood products. Do not donate sperm, organs, or body tissues.
  • Do not share needles or other injectable drug equipment. Use a needle exchange program to get clean needles. Also do not share syringes, rinse water, or anything else used to prepare drugs for injection. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you need help to stop using illegal drugs.
  • Do not share objects or tools. Examples include razors, toothbrushes, or tweezers. They may cut or scrape the skin and cause others to come into contact with blood.
  • Do not pierce your ears, navel, or any other place on your body if you are HIV-positive. Piercing can cause bleeding. This may spread HIV.

Other ways to prevent the spread of HIV:

  • Take every dose of HAART medicines exactly as directed if you are HIV-positive. This will prevent the virus from mutating and becoming much harder to treat. Consistent use of HAART medicines may help prevent the spread of HIV to a sex partner or an unborn baby.
  • Have safe sex. Ask your sex partners if they are HIV-positive, or tell them that you are. Use a latex condom correctly each time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Women may use latex female condoms when a male condom cannot be used. Do not share sex toys.
  • Join a risk reduction program if you are HIV-positive. Ask your healthcare provider or local health department to help you find a risk reduction program. This program will teach you how to tell others that you have HIV and ask sexual partners to use condoms.
  • Treat STIs right away. If you are sexually active, get tested for STIs at least 1 time each year. If you become infected with an STI, treat it right away. This may help reduce the risk that you will give HIV to a sex partner.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2018 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about HIV Transmission (Aftercare Instructions)

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