Monday, April 30, 2012

The Truth about HIV: Transmission

If you haven't read the story of how God is leading us to adopt a little boy who is HIV positive, you can read it here to better understand our journey.

Someone said that if you disclose about your child's HIV status, you immediately become an advocate.  So true!  We are passionate about sharing correct information, hence Part 1 of a series all about HIV!

Transmission . . . this is where fear comes into the picture.  Obviously no one wants to be infected with HIV, but if you don't have the facts, this can lead to unnecessary and unfounded fears.

This is also where the social stigma rages.  Again, out of a desire to not get infected, the answer for some is to exclude and ridicule those living with HIV.  

A family with a beautiful daughter who is HIV positive recently got UNinvited to a birthday party when their daughter's status was discovered.  You can read the family's post here.  This stuff happens.  Fear can drive people to do and say some pretty hurtful things.  

So I want this post to make extremely and overwhelming clear the FACTS about how HIV is and is not transmitted.  I'm praying that the TRUTH will drive away the fear!

(All of the information I will share can be found at credible sources like,, and

Transmittable Concentrations of HIV are only found in:

- Blood

- Semen

- Vaginal Fluid

- Breast Milk

HIV is transmitted by:

- Unprotected Sex (vaginal, anal, oral)

- Sharing needles and syringes (This could include needles for tattoos and body piercings that aren't sterilized properly.  Make sure you use a reputable company for these services!)

- Pregnancy and Childbirth

- Breastfeeding

These are ADULT behaviors, not behaviors of a child.  I heard a mom say that she told people who were nervous being around her young daughter, "Don't worry.  We are very strict with her.  We don't let her have sex, share needles, or give birth!" There is NO risk! 

HIV is not transmitted by:

- hugging

- kissing

- holding hands

- coughing

- sneezing

- from a toilet seat

- changing a diaper

- sharing a cup/plate/utensils

- biting

- scratching

- bathing

- swimming

- insect bites, including mosquitoes

- playing sports 

- through the air

- urine

- feces

- tears

- sweat

- spit up/vomit

- saliva

- snot

There have been no cases of HIV transmission in a household or other casual setting since anti-retroviral medicines were introduce in 1995.

There have been NO documented cases of HIV transmission in a sports environment.

There have been NO cases of HIV transmission from one child to another.

Other Facts about HIV Transmission:

- HIV is a fragile virus and does not survive well outside the body.  HIV is also unable to reproduce outside its living host (some bacteria and fungi are able to do this). 

- People receiving HIV treatment can have the levels of virus in their blood brought down to "undetectable" levels.  This reduces the risk of transmission even more in case you were exposed to HIV through one of the adult behaviors listed above.  

- A friend's Infectious Disease Specialist (an expert in HIV) said that for HIV to be transmitted from a wound, a person would have to have a gaping wound touching the other person's gaping wound with blood flowing into each others body for one hour for there to be a small risk of transmission.  This scenario does not happen in our normal living!

- The Center for Disease Control monitors HIV transmission very closely.  If there were other ways that HIV was transmitted, they would know about it and would educate the public. 

- A person's HIV status is protected by law.  You do not have to tell anyone that you are HIV positive because there is NO risk of transmission through casual contact.  You probably come in contact with people each day who have HIV and there is no need for you to know . . . no risk!

How Can You Protect Yourself Against Transmitting or Contracting HIV?

- Do not have unprotected sex (This is for people not in a faithful, monogamous relationship where you know that both of you are HIV negative.)

- Do not share needles or syringes for drug use and make sure that proper sterilization has occurred for tattoos or body piercing. 

- If you are HIV positive and pregnant, seek HIV treatment immediately.  You DO NOT have to pass HIV to your child.   With treatment, the risk of transmission can be cut to 1%.

- If you are a mother who is HIV positive, give your infant formula instead of breastfeeding.

-  Practice UNIVERSAL PRECAUTIONS (all school, sports, childcare, and church settings should already be doing this) . . . When coming in contact with blood or other bodily fluids, use gloves or some other barrier (towel, wipe) to protect yourself.  Skin is a natural barrier, but you should use another barrier, especially if you have an open wound.  Use safe methods when you dispose of materials with blood or fluids on them.  Thoroughly wash your hands and any other area after coming in contact with blood or bodily fluids.

- Teach your children what to do if they see someone bleeding . . . Get an adult immediately!

Now That You Know . . .

As you can see, children with HIV are perfectly safe to be around, hug, play, share food, and invite to birthday parties!  There simply IS NOT a risk of transmission through casual contact!
After reading all these facts, you still might be afraid . . . and that's okay.  

But you can choose not to walk in that fear.  

You can choose not to reject a child or family living with HIV.  You can choose not to discriminate or ridicule.  You can choose not to be a part of the stigma that shames those living with HIV. 

You can choose to hug and love and play with a child living with HIV.  You can choose to invite that little one to your child's birthday party.  You can choose to babysit to give those parents a night out.  You can choose to support and encourage a family walking this road.

You can choose to pass on this information to all who will listen so the fear and stigma will stop!

PLEASE share this info on your blog or facebook.  Please share this truth when HIV comes up in conversation . . . or even when it doesn't! :)  Getting the FACTS about HIV out there is what will end the cycle of stigma and fear!


  1. Cole, I'm so encouraged by you and Chad's obedience to walk down a road with so many uncertainties. When I was in grade school my Mom's brother contracted HIV and lived with us for several years. Back then, the only rule was not to drink after Uncle Andy, and I haven't really updated my knowledge ever since. I'm so glad you've taken this opportunity to debunk some myths that I have been holding to. I'm looking forward to learning with you guys! We are praying for y'all and baby Easton!

  2. Thanks for sharing Beth! Its probably safe to say that most of us have held to incorrect information and unnecessary fears! We're so thankful to be able to share truth and open eyes to the stigma that still rages! Thanks for your prayers and encouragement!

  3. great post ma'am! praying for you and Pastor Chad!

  4. Cole- I may have really enjoyed the last point/paragraph under "HIV is transmitted by...".