HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system.
If HIV is not treated, it can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).
Once people have HIV, they have it for life. However – with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled and persons living with HIV can live long, healthy lives and protect their partners.
How do I know if I have HIV?
The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested.
Some people experience flu like symptoms 2- 4 weeks after infection, but not everyone experiences these symptoms. Additionally, symptoms alone does not mean that you have HIV. The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested, and tested regularly if you have certain risk factors.
How is HIV transmitted?
You can get HIV if you have anal sex with someone who has HIV without using protection (like condoms or medicine to treat or prevent HIV). Being the receptive partner (bottom) is riskier than being the insertive partner (top).
Vaginal sex is less risky for getting HIV, but both partners can get HIV during unprotected vaginal sex. Protection such as condoms or medicine to treat or prevent HIV can reduce your risk of transmission.
Unprotected sexual intercourse with multiple sexual partners, or with a sexual partner whose HIV status is unknown can put you at risk for HIV transmission.
HIV can be transmitted from a mother to her baby during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding. However, it is less common because of advances in HIV prevention and treatment.
Women who are pregnant should be tested for HIV during pregnancy. Beginning HIV treatment during pregnancy can prevent the transmission of HIV to the baby.
If a woman with HIV takes HIV medicine as prescribed throughout pregnancy and childbirth, and gives HIV medicine to her baby for 4 to 6 weeks after birth, the risk of transmission can be less than 1%.
Injection Drug Use
You are at high risk for getting HIV if you share needles, syringes, or other drug injection equipment (for example, cookers) with someone who has HIV. Never share needles or other equipment to inject drugs, hormones, steroids, or silicone. Consider the possibility of HIV infected blood droplets on every piece of equipment used, including cookers, spoons, water, cotton balls, etc. Using shared equipment of any type can increase your risk of HIV. Local Syringe Service Programs offer anonymous exchange of syringes and injection equipment.