The Facts About HIV

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). The HIV virus destroys the body’s ability to fight off infection and can eventually lead to AIDS. To date, there is no cure for HIV. If unidentified and untreated, HIV can be fatal.

HIV spreads through blood, semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk.

The most common ways persons may become infected with HIV are:

  • Having sex (anal, vaginal or oral), with someone infected with HIV.
  • Sharing needles or syringes with an infected person.
  • A woman with HIV can pass the virus to her baby during pregnancy or birth. HIV-infected mothers can also infect their babies by breastfeeding.
  • Donated blood screening for HIV didn't start until 1985. Some people got the virus by receiving HIV-infected blood products between 1978 and 1985.

You cannot tell if someone has HIV by looking at them. A person infected with HIV may look healthy and feel fine, but they can still pass the virus to others. An HIV test is the only way a person can learn if they're infected with HIV.

Who should be tested for HIV?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Preventive Services Task Force, everyone between the ages 15 to 65 should be screened at least once.

People who should be screened more often include people who:

  • Have had sex without a condom (anal, vaginal or oral) with someone whose HIV status you
  • Do not know, even if that person is a boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse
  • Shared needles, syringes or works
  • Had multiple sex partners, male or female
  • Have been diagnosed with or treated for any sexually transmitted infection (STI), hepatitis, or tuberculosis
  • Exchange sex for money, drugs or other goods
  • Received blood products between 1978 and 1985

Or, if a person had sex, even once, with anyone who has done any of these things.

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