Treatment training manual

2. 5 HIV: key facts

  • The risk of HIV transmission depends on how much virus is in blood or sexual fluids. HIV is measured using a viral load test. When viral load is high, the risk is high.
  • Some body fluids are never a risk. For example, saliva, spit, tears, urine or faeces.
  • Outside the body, HIV in blood and other bodily fluids does not survive for long. Perhaps, for only a few minutes.
  • HIV is a difficult virus to catch from sexual. But a single risk is also all it take. This is just good or bad luck.
  • Sharing needles or other IV drug taking equipment is a higher risk. 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 includes contact with mucous membranes (the tissue that lines the vagina, rectum and inner foreskin).
  • Without testing, many people do not know they are HIV positive.
  • Without HIV treatment (ART), HIV progresses at different rates. 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.

More information

This guide has more information about different ways HIV can be transmitted.
Guide to HIV testing and transmission.

Last updated: 1 January 2021.