Transmission of HIV and Epidemiology of AIDS

HIV is transmitted from one individual to another by three major routes:

• Sexual contact is the most frequent mode of transmission, either between heterosexual couples (the most frequent mode of transmission in Africa and Asia) or between homosexual male partners. In sub-Saharan Africa, where the infection rate is the highest in the world (estimated to be about 10,000 new cases every day), more than half the infected individuals are women.

• Mother-to-child transmission of HIV accounts for the majority of pediatric cases of AIDS. This type of transmission occurs most frequently in utero or during childbirth, although transmission through breast milk is also possible.

• Inoculation of a recipient with infected blood or blood products is also a frequent mode of HIV transmission. Needles shared by intravenous drug abusers account for most cases of this form of transmission. With the advent of routine laboratory screening, transfusion of blood or blood products in a clinical setting accounts for a small portion of HIV infections.

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