Protect Yourself, Get Tested
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) attacks and weakens the body’s immune system to the point that the body is not able to fight off common infections and some cancers. This stage is called AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
HIV is found in the following fluids:
- Vaginal fluid
- Breast milk
HIV can be transmitted from an infected person to another through direct contact of these bodily fluids by:
- Anal sex
- Vaginal sex
- Oral sex (less common)
- Sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs, tattoo, or body pierce
- Mother-to-baby transfer during pregnancy, childbirth, or through breastfeeding
HIV cannot be spread by shaking hands, hugging, coughing, swimming pools, toilet seats, cups, or animals.
To prevent HIV infection:
- Avoid sex or know the HIV status of all your sex partners
- Practice safer sex by always using latex condoms the right way
- If you are at high-risk, take medications daily (PrEP)
- Use a latex barrier (dental dam) for oral sex
- Limit or avoid use of drugs and alcohol as this inhibits your ability to make good choices
- Don’t share injection drug equipment with other people
- Don’t share needles for tattooing or piercing
There is no vaccine to prevent HIV, nor is there a cure, however there are treatments that can extend an infected persons life and reduce the risk they will transmit the disease to others.
Should I get tested?
Knowing your HIV status is important in protecting yourself and others. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as a part of their routine health care, as one in six individuals is unaware of their infection. Persons at risk for HIV should be screened for HIV at least annually. All pregnant women should be screened for HIV at the first prenatal visit, and again in the third trimester if a woman is considered at higher risk.
Certain populations have higher risk of getting infected due to the higher rates of HIV in their communities. Additionally, a range of social, economic, and demographic factors such as stigma, discrimination, income, education, and geographic region affect the risk for HIV. These populations are defined by CDC as being at a higher risk for HIV:
- Men who have sex with Men (MSM)
- Injection drug users
- Transgender Women
- African Americans
- African-born individuals
To find out if you are at risk for HIV and other diseases, take our Know Your Risk Assessment.
Free testing is available through Counseling, Testing, and Referral (CTR) Sites for those at risk. Click here to find where you can get tested in your area.