What is HIV?

HIV is the abbreviation for human immunodeficiency virus, the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). The virus weakens a person's ability to fight infections and cancers. A person can get HIV by coming into contact with an infected person's body fluids (blood, semen, vaginal fluids, breast milk). HIV can be spread through:

  • Vaginal, oral, or anal sex
  • Sharing unclean needles to take drugs
  • Pregnancy (from mother to baby)
  • Blood transfusions (Since 1985, blood donations have been routinely tested for HIV, so infection from blood transfusions is now rare.)

You cannot get HIV from:

  • Touching or hugging someone who has HIV or AIDS
  • Public bathrooms or swimming pools
  • Sharing cups, utensils, telephones or other personal items
  • Bug bites

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