Treatment training manual

2. 5 HIV: key facts

  • The risk of HIV transmission is related to how much virus is blood or infectious fluids. The risk is highest when viral load is high. Levels of HIV are measured using viral load tests.
  • HIV is not infectious in saliva, spit, tears, urine or faeces.
  • Outside the body, HIV in blood and other bodily fluids is thought to die within a minute or so.
  • HIV is a difficult virus to catch from sexual exposure. But only one exposure is needed to become HIV positive. This is just good or bad luck.
  • HIV is much easier to catch from sharing infected needles or othe IV drug taking equipment. This is becasue there is direct blood-to-blood contact.
  • HIV enters the blood by broken skin or through cells that are close to the surface of the skin. This can include contact with mucous membranes (the type of tissue that lines the inside of the vagina, rectum and inner foreskin).
  • Without testing, many people with HIV do not know they are HIV positive.
  • Without HIV treatment (ART), some people (less than 5%) will become ill within 1-2 years. A few people (also less than 5%) can go for 15 years without symptoms.
  • Although a lot of information about your health and HIV comes from blood tests, less than 2% of the HIV in your body is in your blood.
  • Most HIV is in your lymph system and lymph nodes. These are the little lumps that sometimes get enlarged in your neck, under your arms, and in the crease between your legs and your body.

Last updated: 1 January 2016.