The Causes Of AIDS – How The Infection Spreads

Millions of people across the globe, including individuals as young as 15 years old, are living with HIV/AIDS. The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is one of the primary causes of AIDS or Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome.

Once the AIDS virus enters the body of an individual, it proceeds to live and multiply in the blood and the body fluids. The virus may be present in:

  • Blood
  • Semen and pre-seminal fluids
  • Breast milk
  • Vaginal secretions
  • Rectal and anal mucous
  • Cerebrospinal fluids
  • Amniotic fluids

causes of aids

The transfusion of HIV infected blood is one of the causes of AIDS in a healthy individual.


The transmission of the virus occurs when it passes on from an infected individual to the bloodstream of a healthy individual. The most vulnerable period during which an HIV infection is acquired is the early phase (within one to three months after exposure to the virus), as this is when the virus multiplies in large numbers in the patient’s blood and body fluids.

Causes Of AIDS – Five Common Modes Of HIV Transmission

Here are some of the modes of HIV transmission:

  1. Sexual Contact

    Unprotected sexual contact – oral, anal, or genital – can spread HIV when a person is exposed to the infected body fluids of an HIV positive sexual partner. The virus enters the bloodstream through small tears that might have occurred in the delicate lining of the vagina, rectum, penis, or mouth during sexual contact.

  2. Breast Milk/Amniotic Fluid

    An HIV positive mother may infect her child either during pregnancy or childbirth, or through breast feeding. This infection can occur either through infected amniotic fluid or breast milk.

  3. The Use Of Infected Syringes

    The HIV infection may be transmitted during intravenous drug use, through the sharing of HIV contaminated needles and syringes.

  4. Accidental Contact

    Health care workers such as doctors, nurses, and laboratory personnel may contract the HIV infection when they come into accidental contact with a patient’s body fluids. Accidental infection can also occur if the infected fluid gets splashed into the eyes, mouths, or open cuts of these healthcare professionals.

  5. Blood Or Organ Transplants

    HIV positive individuals can spread the infection when they donate blood or organs to healthy individuals. This makes it crucial to screen the blood and organs of donors for HIV infection before they’re allowed to proceed with the donation.

It is important to note that the HIV infection does NOT spread through activities such as hugging or shaking hands with HIV positive individuals, sharing food and other items with them, or dancing with them. It is also not transmitted through mosquitoes.

cause of aids

It is important to remember that hugging an HIV infected individual is not a cause of AIDS.

The Causes Of AIDS – High Risk Individuals

Here’s a list of people who carry a high risk of contracting HIV.

  • People with a history of sexually transmitted diseases such as a Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infection, syphilis, genital herpes, a chlamydial infection, gonorrhea, and bacterial vaginosis
  • Individuals who have an HIV infected individual for a sexual partner
  • Those who have unprotected sex with multiple partners
  • Homosexual men
  • Victims of sexual assault

Once the HIV infection resulting from the causes of AIDS has progressed to the next stage i.e. AIDS , by the late stages of the condition (about 10 yrs after exposure to the virus), the virus kills the cells of the immune system and leaves the body susceptible to opportunistic infections and cancer.


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About Dhanya V C

Dhanya (M.Sc) is a Senior Research Fellow at the Indian Veterinary Research Institute. A member of the FMD Virus Vaccine Production Unit, she specializes in Medical Microbiology, Biochemistry, Physiology, and Molecular Biology. She has over three years of professional experience.

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