HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Imagine your body as an army. HIV attacks the part of your body that fights disease (the immune system). HIV makes the immune system not work right.

Sometimes there are no signs of HIV at first. You can’t tell if you have HIV until you get a blood test. Also, many people with HIV look healthy and can transmit HIV.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, About 12,000 youth were infected with HIV in 2010. Young people between the ages of 13 and 24 represent 26 percent of new HIV infections each year–with a little more than half (54%) of new infections among young gay and bisexual males are in African Americans. Most of these young people with HIV (60 percent) do not know they are infected, so they don’t get important early treatment and also can unknowingly pass HIV on to others.

You can protect yourself from HIV–learn the risks, know how to prevent infection, and get tested.

How do I get HIV?

HIV is passed to sex partners through blood, semen (cum), seminal fluid (pre-cum), and vaginal fluids.

You can get HIV from direct contact, like having vaginal, anal or oral sex or sharing injection drug needles and syringes. You can also get HIV from indirect contact, like when pregnant mothers can pass HIV to their babies during childbirth or breastfeeding.

You cannot get HIV from

  • hugging, kissing, talking to or touching a person with HIV
  • an insect bite (like from a mosquito)
  • Casual contact (like sharing sharing food and drink, using a public restroom, or swimming together)


There are no documented cases of anyone getting HIV through kissing, even French kissing.

There are some activities that make you more likely to get HIV:

  • Sharing needles and syringes
  • Having unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex
  • Having another sexually transmitted infection (STI) or tuberculosis (TB)


Vaginal, anal or oral sex without a condom is the main way people get HIV. HIV can infect anyone if they have unprotected sex or share drug needles with infected partners. Using condoms prevents your partner’s blood, seminal fluid, semen, and vaginal fluids from getting in your body. Those bodily fluids have HIV. Even in oral sex, there should be some plastic or latex coveror barrier between you and your partner. This barrier keeps you from your partner’s bodily fluids.

Sometimes the signs of HIV look the same as the signs of other sexually transmitted infections(STIs). Some people don’t show signs of HIV for a long time. The only way to tell if you have HIV is to get a blood test.

Is there a cure for HIV?

No. There is no cure for HIV. But, there are some medicines that can make you feel better and stay healthy.

How do I find out if I have HIV?

The only way to tell if you have HIV is to get an HIV test. You can get a test from a doctor’s office, health departments, Planned Parenthood, community clinics, and college health centers. You can easily search for a clinic near you.

Reduce your risk

  • The best way to reduce your risk is to not have sex. Vaginal, anal and oral sex is the major way HIV is passed.
  • If you do choose to have sex, use condoms, the right way, every time. Birth control and spermicides do not protect you from HIV.
  • Get tested. If you are having sex, get tested for HIV and other STIs.
  • Limit the number of partners you have.
  • Don’t inject drugs. If you do inject drugs, make sure you use only clean needles, syringes and other works. Never share needles, syringes and other works. Get tested for HIV every year
  • Talk to your partner. If you or your partner has HIV or other STIs, you should tell each other. If you are not having sex with someone else and are not injecting drugs, you are probably safe.

Shooting Drugs

Sharing drug equipment such as needles or syringes is any easy way to get HIV. When you inject the drug in your skin, blood will come up the needle. When you share someone’s needle and it hasn’t been cleaned, the blood left in the needle will be injected into you. This is how people get infected.

You don’t have to inject drugs like heroin, cocaine or speed. Sharing needles for injecting steroids could also infect you.

If you shoot up drugs and share needles, there is a big risk for getting HIV and other infections like hepatitis B and C. IF YOU NEED HELP TO STOP TAKING DRUGS: CALL National Drug and Alcohol Hotline for help:1-800-662-43457.

Making needles safe from HIV and other STIs

One way to avoid getting HIV is to not use drugs and share needles. You should use a new, clean needle if possible. If clean needles and “works” aren’t available, you have to know how to clean them. Cleaning needles will kill any HIV virus on the needle.

Tips on Cleaning Needles and Works:

  • Get 2 cups and fill them with water
  • Fill the syringe with water from one cup and wait 30 seconds. Throw out that water and cup.
  • Empty the syringe and fill it with bleach. Wait 30 seconds before rinsing it out.
  • Refill the syringe with bleach 2 more times. Wait at least 30 seconds before rinsing.
  • Fill the syringe with water from the second container several times. This will get rid of the bleach.

Tattoos And Body Piercing

Some people are afraid that you can get HIV through body piercing or tattooing. You can ask a tattoo parlor to explain what they do to stop HIV from being passed from person to person.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that tattooing and piercing needles should be used once and thrown away OR sterilized (thoroughly cleaned).

Some people have friends who do tattooing with pins, needles, writing pens and even knives. This is not a good idea. Those things may not be clean and could pass HIV to you without you knowing.

If you are thinking about getting a tattoo or piercing, choose a reputable (trustworthy) shop and make sure they do it safely and cleanly.

Playing Sports

If someone gets hurt and starts bleeding when you are playing sports, stop the game. In organized sports the player is not allowed to play until the bleeding stops and the cut is covered with a bandage. If there is blood on playing court, like a basketball court or wrestling mat, the team trainer will clean the area with disinfectant. If the player gets blood on the uniform, the uniform must be changed.

These safety rules are flowed to keep people from the injured player’s blood. There are no written cases of HIV from sports.

HIV-Infected Mothers

A mother can transmit HIV to her baby. But, she can lower the risk by taking special medicine when she is pregnant. A mother with HIV should not breastfeed her baby. HIV can be passed through breast milk. Women now are offered HIV tests when they are pregnant. By knowing if they are infected with HIV, moms can make the best choices for the health of themselves and their baby.

Donated Blood

The blood supply in the United States is tested and all blood that may contain HIV or another disease is thrown away. So you can get a blood transfusion and not worry. Some people worry about getting infected by donating blood, but there never has been any risk of infection by donating. A sterile needle is used to collect blood and then the needle is thrown away.

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