What are the dangerous "actions" or situations that place you at risk of being infected? The main ways in which HIV is transmitted is through blood, mother to child, and sexual activity.
Let's first take a look at blood. When infected blood comes into contact with another person's blood, the virus can be transmitted. The following three ways a person can be infected through blood are blood transfusions, needle pricks and injecting drug use.
The rapid escalation of the HIV epidemic is placing pressure on blood transfusion services to keep the blood supply safe. The blood transfusion services however, take all possible precautions to ensure that nobody who is HIV positive donates blood. Injecting drug users very often share needles or a shot of drugs amongst one another. The infected blood within the syringe that they use is then injected into the next person. Most people still have irrational fears about blood. If you practice universal precautions when dealing with any person's blood in the event of an injury, there is no risk of infection. Remember that in all cases, direct blood exchange must occur for infection to take place.
The next "action" that can result in infection is when an HIV positive mother is pregnant or has a baby. HIV transmission occurs directly from the mother to the baby. It can occur during pregnancy, breastfeeding and during birth.
During pregnancy, the mother and baby do not share the same blood system. The baby receives nutrition from the mother via a process of osmosis through the placenta. No direct contact takes place so infection very seldom occurs during pregnancy, approximately 5-10% of babies born to HIV positive mothers would have been infected during pregnancy. However, if the mother is at the stage where she has a very high viral load there is then also a great chance that the baby will be infected.
Most infections which are about 10-15% of babies born to mothers with HIV occur during birth. During the birth process there might be direct blood contact in various ways: Blood exchange between mother and child when the placenta separates from the uterus wall, blood or vaginal fluid contact with the eyes or mouth of the baby as it moves through the vagina during the birth process, and blood or vaginal fluid into broken skin if instrument delivery had to be performed. If caesarean section is performed before the onset of labor, this can greatly reduce the risk of infection.
Approximately 5-20% of babies, who are born HIV negative, become infected through infected breast milk. Breastfeeding is believed to be more risky when the mother has a high viral load, the mother's nipples are cracked or she has abscesses and other breast diseases, and the baby has sores in the mouth or an inflamed gut.
But in the end, the main culprit in spreading HIV from one person to next is unprotected sexual activity! Most people still think that it will never happen to them. Ask any HIV positive person, he or she did not think it would happen to him or her either! People forget that if you are having sex, you are not having sex with that one person only.
You are in a sense having sex with everyone that person had sex with before, and with all their former sexual partners! If they had unprotected sex that could mean up to 30 or 40 other sexual partners whose HIV status you do not know. So if you're into orgies or group sex, this number could be doubled or tripled.
Note: Information was excerpt from the "Channels of Hope" manual.