All people infected with HIV can pass the virus to others.  This is true whether or not people know they are infected and whether or not they have HIV-related symptoms or an AIDS diagnosis.

What are HIV and AIDS?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system.  Over time, most people infected with HIV become less able to fight off life-threatening infections and cancers.  HIV is found in blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk of an infected person.  AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is the last stage of HIV disease.


What Activities Put a Person at Risk for HIV Infection?
Activities that put a person at increased risk for HIV infection include:

having unprotected anal, oral, or vaginal sex with a person who has HIV or whose HIV status is unknown; and

sharing injection drug needles or “works” with a person who has HIV or whose HIV status is unknown.

Women with HIV infection can pass the virus to their babies during pregnancy, delivery, and through breastfeeding.  Health care workers may be exposed to HIV through needlesticks and other blood contact.

Before 1985, some people were infected through blood transfusions or use of blood products.  Since 1985, blood products are screened for HIV so that the risk of acquiring HIV through a blood transfusion is extremely low.


Are There Other Ways to get HIV?
No.  HIV is NOT spread by activities such as:

– working with or attending school with someone who is infected with HIV or has AIDS;
– touching or hugging;
– shaking hands;
– coughing or sneezing;
– getting bitten by insects;
– sharing cups, glasses, silverware, or plates;
– sharing toilets;
– swimming in pools or public baths; or
– donating (giving) blood.


How Can People Protect Themselves From HIV?
You can reduce your risk of becoming infected with HIV by:

– abstaining from vaginal, anal, or oral sex;
– having sex with only one faithful partner who is not infected;
– using a condom (rubber) during sex from start to finish;
– reducing the number of sexual partners;
– avoiding sex with others who have multiple partners; or
– avoiding using or sharing needles.


What are the Signs of HIV?
There are no signs.  Many people with HIV do not show signs of the disease – and may not for many years.  Once infected, however, they have the lifetime ability to infect others.


What are the Signs of AIDS?
Some of the signs of AIDS include:

– extreme tiredness,
– fever,
– loss of appetite and weight,
– diarrhea,
– night sweats, or
– persistent dry cough.

You should see your doctor if you have any of these symptoms and they last longer than two weeks.


Is There a Test for HIV?
Yes.  The HIV antibody test is a way to tell whether you are infected with HIV.  When HIV enters your body, your immune system responds by making proteins called antibodies.  The HIV antibody test detects HIV antibodies in your body.  A positive test does not tell you if you have AIDS or when you will get AIDS.


Why is it Important for People to Know if They are Infected with HIV?

The sooner people know they have HIV, the sooner they can make choices that will keep them healthier longer.

Precautions can be taken so the virus is not passed to others.

Couples considering pregnancy or women who are pregnant can discuss treatment options with their doctors to reduce the risk of their infant becoming infected.

Sex and needle-sharing partners can be told they have been exposed to HIV.