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Worried about getting HIV?

Do you think you may have been exposed to HIV? It’s important to know how HIV is transmitted.

HIV is transmitted by blood, semen, rectal mucus or vaginal fluids of an HIV infected person entering the bloodstream of another person. This usually occurs through having anal or vaginal sex without using a condom, or through sharing injecting equipment.

There have been a small number of cases of HIV transmitted by oral sex. In most of these cases, there were sores, wounds, cuts, herpes lesions or infections in the mouth. If these are not present it is difficult for HIV to enter the bloodstream via the mouth or throat.

You can’t catch HIV from:

  • Casual contact, such as kissing, hugging or sharing eating utensils with someone with HIV
  • Tears or sweat of a person with HIV
  • Mosquitoes.

You are unlikely to get HIV from discarded needles and syringes. In over 30 years of HIV in Australia there has not been one report of HIV transmission as a result of accidental injury with discarded hypodermic needles outside of a hospital setting.

More information about HIV prevention

If you think you may have been exposed to HIV you should consider getting post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), which is a short course of HIV treatment. To be most effective, PEP must be started as soon as possible after exposure to HIV (within 3 days).

To get PEP, contact your local sexual health clinic, hospital emergency department, or visit for a list of locations.

This page was published on 12 January, 2011

This page was reviewed on 3 November 2015