Human immune deficiency virus (HIV)

HIV is a virus that gets in your body and hurts your immune system. The virus kills cells and your immune system cannot fight off germs. If HIV is not treated, it will lead to AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome).

There is no cure for HIV/AIDS. Special medicines can help control the virus. Sometimes it may take years for AIDS to develop.

People who have HIV may have:

  • Fever 
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Rash
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Night sweats
  • Diarrhea

It is spead by:

  • Sharing used needles or other drug injection supplies
    • This includes tattoo and body-piercing needles
  • Having sex with an infected person
  • From a mother to her baby
  • Getting a blood transfusion from an infected blood donor

You cannot get HIV from:

  • Hugging, kissing, sneezing, or shaking hands
  • Sharing foods, forks, spoons, or glasses
  • Through the air, water, or insect bites

People at risk for HIV are:

  • People who have sex with someone who has the virus
  • People who have sex with many people
  • People who have sex without using a condom
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Drug users who share needles and syringes to inject drugs
  • Paramedics, emergency responders, and health care workers

You can prevent HIV by:

  • Practicing safe sex and using condoms
  • Not sharing needles or equipment if you use drugs
  • Wearing gloves, gown, and/or mask if you might touch blood or body fluids


Last reviewed: 
July 2017

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