What is HIV?

There are more than one million people living with HIV in the United States – and one in six people don’t know they’re infected.

How is HIV passed?

In the United States, HIV is passed mainly throughunprotected (without a condom) vaginal or anal sex or sharing injection drug equipment such as needles with someone who has HIV.

HIV is only passed from an HIV+ person to another through direct contact with bodily fluids such as:

  • Blood (including menstrual blood)
  • Semen (including pre-ejaculate)
  • Vaginal fluids
  • Breast milk

HIV is not spread by day-to-day contact in the workplace, schools, or social settings. HIV is not passed through shaking hands, hugging, or a casual kiss. You can’t get HIV from a toilet seat, drinking fountain, door knob, dishes, drinking glasses, food, cigarettes, pets, or insects. HIV is not spread through the air, and it does not live long outside the body.

Mother to Child Transmission

Mother to child transmission is now rare in the US and other developed countries because there are medications to prevent the fetus from getting infected. Women with HIV should not breast-feed infants because HIV is present in breast milk.

The best way to fight HIV is to know your status. If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you should get tested.


Have you had sex with someone who is HIV-positive or whose status you didn’t know since your last HIV test? ¨yes ¨no
Have you injected drugs (including steroids, hormones, or silicone) and shared equipment (or works, such as needles and syringes) with others? ¨ yes ¨ no
Have you exchanged sex for drugs or money? ¨ yes ¨ no
Have you been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection, like syphilis? ¨ yes ¨ no
Have you been diagnosed with hepatitis or tuberculosis (TB)? ¨ yes ¨ no
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