HIV Facts

*This site contains STD/HIV/Viral Hepatitis prevention messages that may not be appropriate for all ages


HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus.  This is the virus that causes AIDS.  HIV is different from most other viruses because it attacks the immune system.  The immune system gives our bodies the ability to fight infections.  HIV finds and destroys a type of white blood cell (T cells or CD4 cells) that the immune system must have to fight disease.

AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.  AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection.  Having AIDS means that the virus has weakened the immune system to the point at which the body has a difficult time fighting infection.


HIV can be found in body fluids, including:

      • Blood
      • Semen
      • Vaginal Fluids
      • Breast Milk

HIV is passed from one person to another by:

      • Having sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) with a person who has HIV
      • Sharing needles with a drug user who has HIV
      • During Pregnancy, birth, or breast-feeding if a mother has HIV

Abstaining from sex is the most effective way to prevent HIV transmission.  There are several ways to protect yourself or to prevent transmitting HIV during vaginal, oral, or anal sex if you choose to have sex:

      • Get tested for HIV and know the HIV status of yourself and your partner
      • Being in a monogamous relationship
      • Use condoms or other latex barriers during vaginal, oral, and anal sex, and never reuse condoms/latex barriers

HIV cannot be transmitted by casual contact.  Here are the facts:

      • You cannot get HIV from shaking hands or hugging a person with HIV/AIDS
      • You cannot get HIV from using a public telephone, drinking fountain, restroom, swimming pool, Jacuzzi, or hot tub
      • You cannot get HIV from sharing a drink
      • You cannot get HIV from being coughed or sneezed on
      • You cannot get HIV from giving blood
      • You cannot get HIV from a mosquito bite

Transmission of HIV while getting a tattoo or through a body piercing is possible, but it can be prevented through:

      • Single-use instruments intended to penetrate the skin being used only once, then disposed of
      • Reusable instruments or devices that penetrate the skin and/or contact a client’s blood should be thoroughly cleaned and sterilized between clients according to medical guidelines