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A quick breakdown on how HIV can be transmitted.

This topic aims to show ways in which HIV can and cannot be transmitted. It ties in with a recently published topic found here http://www.drtanandpartners.com/how-does-hiv-enter-the-body/.


This topic will be split into 3 parts; Definite ways of HIV transmission, theoretical ways of transmission, and no way of transmission.


Bear in mind that in order for HIV to be transmitted fluid from a positive person has to come into contact with the negative person. Semen and blood hold high loads of the virus but saliva and vaginal fluid hold very little.


According to Singapore Ministry of Health UPDATE ON THE HIV/AIDS SITUATION IN SINGAPORE 2014.

Definite ways of HIV transmission (risk will be listed as risk per 10000 – so 1/10000 means that for every 10000 people who engage in that activity, 1 person will become infected.

  • Blood transfusion – 9250/10000 (this is only with HIV infected blood which is very rare nowadays as every donor blood sample is screened before use).
  • Needle sharing in intravenous drug use – 63/10000.
  • Needlestick injury – 23/10000.
  • Receptive anal sexual intercourse – 138/10000.
  • Insertive anal sexual intercourse – 11/10000
  • Receptive penile-vaginal sexual intercourse – 8/10000
  • Insertive penile-vaginal sexual intercourse – 4/10000
  • Receptive and insertive oral sexual intercourse – low (too low for accurate numbers).



Estimated risk per exposure to HIV transmission: assume that the ‘source partner’ is always HIV-positive. For a partner of unknown status, the risk is affected by the prevalence of HIV in the relevant community – i.e., the chance that the partner does in fact have HIV. Unless otherwise stated, the sexual acts are always without a condom.


Theoretical ways of HIV transmission:

  • Blood contact onto an open wound – possible but an unlikely scenario as open wounds should be tended immediately in order to reduce the risk of other infections. The risk of a bacterial infection would be higher than an HIV infection.
  • Blood contact onto mouth or eyes – again possible but extremely unlikely unless you happen to be in a horror movie.
  • Dried blood – although HIV can survive in dried blood for several days, the environment has to be favourable and transfer this way is very very unlikely.


No risk of HIV transmission:

  • Breathing the same air as someone.
  • Touching a toilet seat or door knob.
  • Drinking from a water fountain.
  • Hugging, kissing or shaking hands (although kissing may transfer fluids the level of virus in saliva is so low as to make the risk negligible).
  • Sharing utensils.
  • Sharing gym equipment.
  • Skin to skin contact with an HIV positive person even if they happen to have fluid of unknown origin on them (particularly applies to commercial sex workers).
  • Biting or scratching that does not break the skin or draw blood.
  • Essentially, as mentioned above, fluid-fluid contact is necessary for transmission – if this hasn’t happened then there is no risk for HIV.


I hope this helps answer most questions that concern people over possible ways of HIV transmission – if new questions pop up I will try and add to this topic to help allay people’s fears.



Feel free to email your queries, feedback and suggestions on what other topics you want to see in the comments section below.

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  1. Dear Dr. Tan

    Good morning

    I had mutual masturbation with a girl and I was touching her Virginia from outside , she was kind wet and after few minutes about 3 minutes , I touch with same finger my Open penis , could I catch Hiv that way


  2. Hi Dr I went to massage center in china I had blowjob for 2sec and hand job and i fingering the vagina for few minutes. And the sex worker had dry wound in leg she touch the wound and she give hand job to me and she touch my penis. By this way hiv will transfer.
    Please reply as soon as possible because I am very sad.

  3. Hi, I did mutual masturbation with a guy. Not sure is there present of precum on his finger. He attempted to finger me by sticking his finger. Hence will i be any form of risk?

  4. Dear Doctor,

    I had a low risk exposure. Hand job with oil. But that’s not my concern as you’ve answered this previously. What’s worrying is the wet towel the masseuse used to clean my privates. I’m not sure if it was contaminated, possibly causing the HIV virus to make its way from the wet towel through my urethra and causing me to be infected.

    Thank you for your time.

  5. Dear Doctor, I have a few concern,

    first i went to a blood test and the nurse in charge just took blood from one person and the proceed and ask me to take a blood test too without changing her glove ? he did touch my hand before he injected me and took my blood, if the person before me had HIV will i be infected ?

    Secondly, i went to a saloon last week and the barber cut my brother’s hair first then he cut mine but his shaver accidently cut my ear and cause a bit small cut, am i at risk of HIV ?

    Thirdly, I went to a doctor and i scratch on my hand last night and i got a bit blood but it dried and the doctor touch that part of the wound with his bare hands and i dunno has he come in contact with blood before that, am i at risk ? thank you

  6. Senthil

    I wrnt to massage parlour. Myself and girl was naked. We rubbed our body each other. During that time we rubbed our genitals each other. So rubbing vagina and penis will it cause hiv.
    I didnt have any sex with the girl.

    • It is very unlikely that non-penetrative genital contact can transmit HIV. However, the only way to be sure if you are free of HIV and other STDs is to get tested.

  7. is it possible for hiv transmission??

  8. doc.. i have hiv symptoms..like oral thrush na hindi mawalawala..rashes sa both.arms.ko..recurring cough..and constant peeling of my skin in the amrs….before i experience this hiv symptoms i remember i touched fluid in the doorknob then wipe my urethra……i suspected someone put his semen in.the doorknob….

  9. Dr, i am Ray, recently my expose with a cal gal from party. No sex or hj invol. i dint naked myself. Bt i was hugging by call gal and she was naked. The concern part is my finger might hav visible small cut and might touching the vaginal outside the hairy and got the line part May i know the risk?

    • Dr FYI i dint insert my finger into her vaginal bt i just slightly around 5 sec touching the hairy part or the center line of the vaginal part is that consider inside vaginal? Is tht any risk from my expose?

    • Dr FYI, i dint insert my finger to her vaginal i just slightly touching the outside of the vaginal or the center line of vaginal then i go to wash my hand immediatly. I was notuce that i got a visible cut without bleeding and wound on the same fingers. So am i in risk?

      • You cannot get HIV this way.

        • dr tan, if there is not any fingering (mean my finger dint insert into the vaginal) is there is no risk right?

          • Finger to genital contact does not carry any risk of HIV infection.

  10. Hi. 40 year old heterosexual male.

    My last sexual partner was in June 2015. We had unprotected vaginal intercourse.

    I had taken a HIV test in November 2015. The HIV test was negative.

    I had taken another HIV test in July 2016 just to confirm the results and that HIV test was negative, as well.

    I had no sexual partners since June 2015 and no risky behavior regarding drug use or anything of that nature.

    My question is, a few days ago, I had used the bathroom at work. I closed the door and then when I pulled out my penis to urinate, the hand I had used to close the door touched the tip/urethra of my penis.

    Is there any risk of HIV transmission? I did not feel anything wet that I recall on the doorknob. Even if there was a fluid on the door knob, is there any risk in this scenario?

    • You cannot catch HIV this way. That honestly is a rather unhealthy level of paranoia. Hope you can overcome this unnecessary worry soon.

  11. Worriedman

    Dear Dr I had a kissing exposure 1 week after my dental surgery from a massause. She just smooch a bit for a second or two. No pain or bleeding during this exposure. After this we had closed lip kiss.no other activities. No french or deep kissing. What is my risk?
    Thanks & Regards

    • No risk. Do not worry unnecessarily.

      • Worriedman

        Dear Dr, after 33 days from my kissing exposure I took Hiv combo test p24+antibody (CMIA).The test came non reactive.
        1.Is this test conclusive?


        • In my view it is. Please verify this with the doctor who did it for you.

          • Worriedman

            Dear Dr, this test was done in lab.As per customer care it’s duo test. But I am confused on window period?

            Please help.

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