What are the risk factors for exposure to HIV?

Updated: Jul 27, 2020
  • Author: Shelley A Gilroy, MD, FACP, FIDSA; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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The history should be carefully taken to elicit possible exposures to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Risk factors include the following:

  • Unprotected sexual intercourse, especially receptive anal intercourse (8-fold higher risk of transmission)

  • A large number of sexual partners

  • Prior or current sexually transmitted diseases (STDs): Gonorrhea and chlamydia infections increase the HIV transmission risk 3-fold, syphilis raises the transmission risk 7-fold, and herpes genitalis raises the transmission risk up to 25-fold during an outbreak

  • Sharing of intravenous drug paraphernalia

  • Receipt of blood products (before 1985 in the United States)

  • Mucosal contact with infected blood or needle-stick injuries

  • Maternal HIV infection (for newborns, infants, and children): Steps taken to reduce the risk of transmission at birth include cesarean delivery and prenatal antiretroviral therapy in the mother and antiretroviral therapy in the newborn immediately after birth.

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