HIV

Cells

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It weakens a person’s immune system by destroying important cells that fight disease and infection. There is currently no effective cure for HIV. But with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. Some groups of people in the United States are more likely to get HIV than others because of many factors, including their sex partners and risk behaviors. This section will give you basic information about HIV, such as how it’s transmitted, how you can prevent it, and how to get tested for HIV.

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Key Facts

  • An estimated 1.2 million people have HIV in the U.S. About 1 in 7 of them don’t know they have the virus.
  • The only way to know you have HIV is to get tested.
  • Ask your healthcare provider for an HIV test, or go to gettested.cdc.gov  to find a testing site near you.
  • Today, more tools than ever are available to prevent HIV. You can use strategies such as abstinence (not having sex), never sharing needles, and using condoms the right way every time you have sex. You may also be able to take advantage of HIV prevention medicines such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).
  • If you have HIV, treatment is available to keep you healthy and protect your sex partners. If you take HIV medicine and get and keep an undetectable viral load, you have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative partner through sex.
  • If you have HIV, the sooner you start treatment, the more you will benefit.

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Two men looking at testing kit
Get Tested

You can ask your health care provider for an HIV test. Many medical clinics, substance abuse programs, community health centers, and hospitals offer them too. You can also find a testing site near you by visiting gettested.cdc.gov, or calling 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636). You can also buy an HIV self-test at a pharmacy or online or check to see if the health department or another organization near you is providing a rapid self-test for a reduced cost or for free.

Man taking pill
Prevent HIV

Today, more tools than ever are available to prevent HIV. The Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign encourages those at risk for HIV to talk about testing, condoms, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and HIV treatment so that they can take action to protect themselves and their partners.

Woman holding young daughter and smiling
Get In Care. Stay In Care. Live Well.

Thanks to better treatments, people with HIV are now living longer—and with a better quality of life—than ever before. If you are living with HIV, it’s important to make choices that keep you healthy and protect others. Visit Let’s Stop HIV Together to learn more.

Prevention Tips

  • Get tested at least once or more often if you are at risk.
  • Choose activities with little to no risk like oral sex. Learn more about your own risk and how to reduce it.
  • Use condoms the right way every time you have anal or vaginal sex
  • Don’t inject drugs, or if you do, don’t share needles, syringes, or other drug injection equipment.
  • If you are at risk for HIV, ask your health care provider if pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is right for you.
  • If you think you’ve been exposed to HIV within the last 3 days, ask a health care provider about post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) right away. PEP can prevent HIV, but it must be started within 72 hours.
  • Get tested and treated for other STDs.

More Information

Page last reviewed: November 25, 2020