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.

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