Q. What are the possible ways of HIV transmission from an infected partner other than sex?

Answered by
Dr. Nagaraj Patil
and medically reviewed by Dr. Sushrutha Muralidharan
This is a premium question & answer published on Nov 08, 2021

Hi doctor,

I would like to have advice from an HIV or AIDS specialist. I was diagnosed with HIV after taking my treatment. After six months, the copies moved from 32,200 copies to 21 copies which made "undetectable" so far. After keeping my treatment, I am still under below 40 copies.

However, my partner who is negative would like to know the following:

1) At what level am I at risk of being contaminated by the virus?

2) As it is not just through sex and sharps that I can get the virus, but is there a possibility of getting it if both have bleeding gums?

3) Is there other ways to get the virus?

4) What about children? At what level are they exposed to getting the virus in the womb or/and during life?

5) How risky is it to get the virus while you have an underlying condition such as anemia or mild anemia (she has alpha thalassemia)?

6) How well do we have to be educated to avoid or prevent the spread of the virus?

Kindly give your opinion.



Welcome to

Good to see your reports are much better (attachments removed to protect the patient's identity) with undetectable levels and good CD (cluster of differentiation) counts. I am sure that you are being informed that with proper treatment and regular monitoring, one can live a near-normal life. Now would like to answer your concerns or questions.

1) I actually did not understand what exactly is your question. Can you please elaborate on the first question?

2) Apart from sexual contact with an infected person, other ways of infections are needlestick injuries, blood or blood-related products transfusion, vertical or mother to kid in the womb. There are controversial reports on whether saliva can transmit infections. However, for all practical purposes, if there is an exchange of body fluids between two people, one of them being infected with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), there is a high risk of infection. So, if both partners have bleeding gums and are involved in, say, kissing and there is an exchange of blood, there is a chance of getting infected.

3) As said before, HIV infection is a possibility if there is an exchange of body fluids with an infected person.

4) As such, there are no levels defined that can tell us about the risk of transmission. The higher the viral load, the more is the risk of transmission to the unborn kid. However, irrespective of viral load, it is recommended to start the pre-natal HIV medications (especially during the last trimester) and continue the same for mother and newborn for few weeks after birth to minimize the risk of transmission.

5) Alpha thalassemia, though mild, may require a blood transfusion if anemia is severe (compounded by other medical conditions). Thalassemia by itself will not increase the risk of HIV, but repeated blood transfusion exposes patients to the risk of getting infected via contaminated blood or needle sticks. However, this is a rarity in today's world because all blood and blood-related products are screened for HIV and other blood-borne infections before transfusion. I would say this is the least possible.

6) Glad that you have this question. Again to reinforce, with proper treatment and regular monitoring, one can live a near-normal life. The HIV infection does not spread by handshakes, casual kissing on cheeks or forehead, hugging, sitting together, dining together (even in severe cases). Science has advanced a lot, and we now have excellent medications, which can enable us to treat HIV patients and assure them a near-normal life. So, the bottom line is HIV does not spread if there is nobody fluid exchange with an infected person. Strictly follow the treatment regimen and regularly follow up with your physician to monitor the viral load and CD4 counts. Eat healthily, follow a healthy lifestyle, and one can lead a normal life.

I hope this was helpful.

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