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9 factors that increase your risk for HIV

Lack of knowledge about HIV is the main reason people are prone to it. Be aware of these risk factors and save yourself from getting infected.

Written by Shraddha Rupavate |Updated : June 4, 2014 6:37 PM IST

HivHIV/ AIDS has killed more than 25 million people in the past 3 decades. But the current statistics are much more frightening. It has been estimated that there are more than 34 million people all around the world living with HIV infection. One of the main reasons why HIV/AIDS is so widespread is the lack the knowledge about risk factors and transmission of HIV. This lack of knowledge is not restricted to people living in remote areas. The highly educated population also seem equally illiterate when it comes to HIV. Maybe in the future we could have a cure for HIV but until then knowing the risk factors is the best way to stay away from HIV.

1. Having unprotected sex: HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the causative agent of AIDS, a disease that completely destroys the immune system of the body, making the infected person susceptible to several other diseases. HIV circulates throughout the body via the blood stream. It is also present in sexual fluids (semen and vaginal secretions). Therefore, the primary risk factor for acquiring the infection is having unprotected sex. This includes vaginal, oral as well as anal intercourse. The risk is highest in anal intercourse followed by vaginal and lastly oral intercourse.

2. Multiple sex partners: Having unprotected sex puts you at a risk of HIV but with multiple sex partners the risk almost doubles. Multiple sex partners increase your chances of having intercourse with an infected individual.

3. Other sexually transmitted infections: Not many people know that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like syphilis, herpes and gonorrhea increase the risk of contracting HIV. The risk of HIV in individuals earlier infected with an STD is 2-5 times more compared to a person without an STD. Studies suggest that sexually transmitted diseases cause certain changes in the genital tissues, increasing the susceptibility of HIV transmission.

4. Transfusion of contaminated blood and blood products: Whether you were transfused blood during a surgery or are a hemophiliac who needs frequent blood transfusion, your chances of contracting HIV are high if the transfused blood is not tested for HIV. As a standard in medical practice, blood is always tested before a transfusion but recently several cases of HIV due to transfusion of infected blood have been noticed.

5. Contaminated syringes and needles: Use of unsterilised syringes is still practised in various parts of developing countries, including India. According to a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) about 5 percent of HIV infections took place due to unsafe injection practices in the year 2002. And, even today the use of unsafe injections is quite rampant. This even includes vaccination given to children.

6. Drug abuse: If you're injecting drugs like ketamine, GHB and poppers intravenously, you are more likely to get infected with HIV. These drugs affect you brain and impair your decision making ability. So you're more likely to share needles and have unprotected sex.

7. Unsafe piercings: If you're fond of body piercings and tattooing, you should be aware that you are at a higher risk of HIV. The needles used in these processes could be contaminated or infected with HIV. Ensure that you get piercing and tattooing done from a trained professional.

8. Negligence in medical practice: All health professionals and health care workers including nurses, doctors, laboratory analysts and pathologists, who have to handle blood samples of patients on a daily basis, are at a risk of HIV if they fail to take necessary precautions and do not follow medical hygienic practices. Handling samples without wearing gloves, improper disinfection and discarding methodology, all can increase your high risk of HIV.

9. Mother-to-child HIV risk: Women with HIV can pass on the virus to their child during pregnancy. Mother-to-child transmission of virus can also take place through breast-feeding because breast milk in an infected mother has high viral load.

Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of hiv/aids.


  • HIV Risk Factors. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (
  • HIV Transmission Risk (

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