What is HIV? What is AIDS?
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks and weakens the immune system (the body’s defense system). The virus attacks and destroys white blood cells called CD4+ cells, which are an important part of the immune system. A weak immune system has trouble fighting off disease. The virus and the infection that it causes are called HIV. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is the last stage of HIV disease. There is currently no cure for AIDS.
How is HIV Spread?
HIV is spread by contact with infected blood, semen or vaginal fluids through:
- Unprotected sexual contact, including oral sex, with a person who has HIV
- Sharing drug needles with a person who has HIV
- Mother to child (during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding)
- Practice safe sex by using a condom every time you have sex
- Avoid injection drug use. If you use injection drugs, don’t share needles or syringes
- Don’t have more than one sex partner at a time. It is safest to have one partner who only has sex with you
- Talk to your partner BEFORE having sex for the first time; find out if your partner is at risk for HIV, get tested, get retested 6 months later, and use condoms
- Be sober during sexual activity; don’t drink a lot of alcohol or use illegal drugs before having sex
- Know your status! Get tested regularly.