Risk factors for HIV infection

Most people get HIV by having unprotected sex with someone who has HIV. Another common way of getting the virus is by sharing needles with someone who is infected with HIV when injecting drugs.

You have an increased risk of becoming infected with HIV through sexual contact if you:

  • Have unprotected sex (do not use condoms).
  • Have multiple sex partners.
  • Are a man who has sex with other men.
  • Have high-risk partner(s) (partner has multiple sex partners, is a man who has sex with other men, or injects drugs).
  • Have or have recently had a sexually transmitted disease, such as syphilis or active herpes.

People who inject drugs or steroids, especially if they share needles, syringes, cookers, or other equipment used to inject drugs, are at risk of being infected with HIV.

Babies who are born to mothers who are infected with HIV are also at risk of infection.

What to think about

HIV may be spread more easily in the early stage of infection, when the first flu-like symptoms of HIV (acute retroviral syndrome) are present, and again later, when symptoms of HIV-related illness develop.

The risk of getting HIV from a blood transfusion is extremely low because all donated blood in the United States is screened for HIV antibodies and HIV RNA, which can detect HIV before antibodies develop.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend HIV screening as part of routine blood testing. You and your doctor can decide if testing is right for you.

Last Updated: February 17, 2009

related physicians

related services

Bon Secours International| Sisters of Bon Secours USA| Bon Secours Health System

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Privacy Policy. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2010 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.