There are 3 ways in which HIV can be transmitted: sexually, from a mother to her unborn child and from direct blood-to-blood contact.  All 3 modes of HIV transmission can be prevented.

Sexual transmission: HIV is transmitted through unprotected sex.  This means having sex without using a male or female condom.  Condoms must be used every time you have sex to prevent HIV transmission.  

Blood-to-blood contact: HIV can also be transmitted from direct blood-to-blood contact with someone who is HIV positive. This can be prevented by wearing gloves when dealing with open wounds or cuts.  People who work in healthcare services can be affected by this as they work with needles and have more direct contact with blood than other people might.

Pregnancy: HIV can be transmitted from a mother to her unborn baby during pregnancy. HIV can also be transmitted at birth and during breastfeeding. To prevent her child becoming infected with HIV, a mother must attend the clinic or hospital as soon as she finds out she is pregnant. She can then begin the PMTCT programme – Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission – in which she will take ARV’s to stop her baby becoming infected.  She will also receive advice and support on preventing HIV transmission during birth and breastfeeding.

There are many other myths and beliefs about HIV transmission which are discussed in the ‘myths’ section of this tool. HIV can only be transmitted in these 3 ways.