What Are My Chances of Getting HIV?

Current Statistics and the Impact of HIV Prevention

Man handing condom to woman
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While there are no fixed answers when addressing an individual's risk of getting HIV, there are activities and behaviors that certainly increase one's likelihood of infection. Chief among these are condom-less (unprotected) sex and sharing needles during injecting drug use.

Moreover, the chance of getting infected increases when a person has multiple risk factors, including multiple sex partners; alcohol or drug use; or the presence of a sexually transmitted infection.

From a purely statistical standpoint, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has outlined the probability of acquiring HIV by various exposure types. These are based on the HIV incidence in the U.S., a measure which determines how often an infection occurs within a specific population of individuals (such as injecting drug users) during a specific period of time.

It's important, however, not to confuse an incidence rate with the risk of infection. For example, a one percent incidence does not mean a one of a 100 chance of getting HIV. The figure should simply be used as a means of relative comparison in understanding which types of activities are riskier than others.

Sexual Exposure and HIV Risk

According to the CDC, the chance of getting HIV from having sex with a person infected with HIV depends on the type of sexual activity, as follows:

  • Receptive anal sex: Risk is 138 per 10,000 exposures or 1.38 percent
  • Insertive anal sex: Risk is 11 per 10,000 exposures or 0.11 percent
  • Receptive vaginal sex: Risk is 8 per 10,000 exposures or 0.08 percent
  • Insertive vaginal sex: Risk is 4 per 10,000 exposures or 0.04 percent
  • Oral sex: Risk is low to negligible

It's important to note that there are a number of variables that influence a person's chance of getting HIV from a sexual encounter.

For instance, the use of both antiretroviral therapy and condoms decreases a person's risk of getting HIV after a sexual exposure by 99.2 percent. In addition, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), may decrease a person's risk of getting HIV by more than 90% in some population groups.

On the other hand, high levels of HIV in a person's bloodstream (as measured by the HIV viral load) may increase the likelihood his or her partner will get infected. Similarly, having co-existing sexually transmitted infections can greatly increase a person's chance of both transmitting and acquiring HIV.

Injecting Drug Use and HIV Risk

The sharing of HIV-contaminated needles or other drug equipment can spread HIV to a non-infected person. According to the CDC, the risk of transmitting HIV by sharing needles is 63 per 10,000 exposures, or 0.63 percent.

Since the early- to mid-1990s, efforts have made to increase needle exchange programs to reduce the rate of HIV and other communicable diseases. Today, there are over 200 such programs in the U.S. distributing over 36 million syringes annually. In New York State alone, HIV incidence among injecting drug users had dropped from 52 percent in 1992 to a mere percent by 2012.

Needle Stick Injury and HIV Risk

The same data suggests that the risk of getting HIV from a needle stick injury with the confirmed presence of HIV-infected blood is 0.23 percent.

Evidence supports the use of post exposure prophylaxis in healthcare settings based on data from retrospective studies which showing treatment within 72 hours was associated with a reduction in transmission risk by approximately 81 percent.

Blood Transfusion and HIV Risk

While the risk of HIV from a tainted blood transfusion carries the highest risk of getting HIV—roughly 92.5—the actual risk is now almost negligible today due to advanced blood screening techniques.

According to the CDC, from 1999 to 2013, only three out of estimated 2.5 million blood recipients were confirmed to have acquired HIV the from a blood transfusion due to a false negative reading.

Mother-to-Child Transmission and HIV Risk

Mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding is the most common way that children get HIV. As such, it is recommended that women with HIV should not breastfeed (with the exception of poor developing countries where the benefits of human milk and nutrition outweigh the risk of infection).

The good news is that mothers with HIV who take antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy can decrease the risk of transmission to less than one percent if the virus is suppressed to so-called undetectable levels.

In the U.S., mother-to-child transmission is considered rare, while the expanded distribution of HIV drugs in the developing world has led to enormous reversals in some of the hardest hit countries in Africa.

A Word From Verywell

Numbers and percentages are ultimately just guidelines. Infection can and sometimes do occur after only one unprotected sexual encounter. The only real way to know if you've been infected is to get tested. In this way, you can begin treatment immediately and better ensure that you have a long, healthy life.

Sources:

Dosekun, O. and Fox, J. "An overview of the relative risks of different sexual behaviors on HIV transmission ." Current Opinions in HIV and AIDS. July 2010; 5(4): 291-297.

Kuhar, D.; Henderson, D.; Struble, K.; et al. "Updated US Public Health Service Guidelines for the Management of Occupational Exposures to Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Recommendations for Postexposure Prophylaxis." Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. August 6, 2013; 34(9): 875-892.

New York Department of Health AIDS Institute. "Comprehensive Harm Reduction Reverse the Trend in New HIV Infections. " Albany, New York; issued March 4, 2014.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). "Recommendations for Use of Antiretroviral Drugs in Pregnant HIV-1-Infected Women for Maternal Health and Interventions to Reduce Perinatal HIV Transmission in the United States." Rockville, Maryland; update issued May 21, 2013.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). " Revised Recommendations for Reducing the Risk of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Transmission by Blood and Blood Products: Questions and Answers." Silver Spring, Maryland; November 2014.

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