Certain lifestyle factors greatly increase your risk of contracting
infection and developing
AIDS. By avoiding behaviors that are associated with increasing your risk, you can greatly reduce your risk.
Risk factors include:
Most people become infected with HIV through sexual activity. You can contract AIDS by not using a
when having sexual relations with a person infected with HIV. Not using condoms properly can also put you at increased risk for acquiring HIV infection. During sex, the vagina, vulva, penis, rectum, and mouth can provide entry points for the virus.
Other behaviors associated with higher risk include:
- Sexual relationship with a high-risk individual or a partner already infected with HIV
- Multiple sexual partners
- Sex with someone who has more than one sexual partner
- Sex without using a condom including vaginal and anal sex
- Having other sexually transmitted diseases
- Injecting illegal drugs, especially with used or dirty needles
- Regular exposure to HIV-contaminated blood or other body fluids
- Being born to an HIV-infected mother
- Living in or being from a geographic locations with high numbers of AIDS patients
- Receiving donor blood products, tissue, organs, or artificial insemination before 1985 (infections from donated tissue after 1985 is unlikely due to strict screening processes)
- Uncircumcised penis—circumcised men are less likely to develop HIV infection than uncircumcised men.
If you inject illegal drugs, this increases your risk of becoming infected with HIV. Using a needle or syringe that contains even a small amount of infected blood can transmit HIV infection.
Sexually transmitted diseases
(STDs) and vaginal infections caused by bacteria tend to increase the risk of HIV transmission during sex with an HIV-infected partner. Examples of STDs include:
For men, not being
can also increase the risk of getting HIV infection.
or receiving blood products before 1985 increases your risk of HIV infection and AIDS. Before blood banks began testing donated blood for HIV in 1985, there was no way of knowing if the blood was contaminated with HIV, and recipients could become infected through transfusions.
Even though blood products are now screened for HIV, there is still some degree of risk because tests cannot detect HIV immediately after transmission.
Although it is uncommon, tissue or organ transplantation and artificial insemination increase your risk of HIV infection and AIDS.
Exposure to contaminated blood and needles puts healthcare workers at risk for HIV.
It is important to be screened and know your HIV status. Your doctor can help you be tested. There are also ways to be anonymously tested such as community clinics or home testing kits that do not require your identification.
Araneta MR, Mascola L, et al. HIV transmission through donor artificial insemination. JAMA. 1995 Mar 15;273(11):854-858.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010.
A guide to primary care of people with HIV/AIDS. National Institute of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://hab.hrsa.gov/deliverhivaidscare/files/primary2004ed.pdf. Accessed May 15, 2013.
HIV and AIDS. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at:
http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/hiv-and-aids.html. Updated December 2010. Accessed May 15, 2013.
HIV/AIDS. Center for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/index.html. Accessed May 15, 2013.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV transmitted from a living organ donor—New York City, 2009. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2011 Mar 18;60(10):297-301.
HIV/AIDS. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease website. Available at: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/HIVAIDS/Understanding/Pages/whatAreHIVAIDS.aspx. Accessed May 15, 2013.
Last reviewed September 2014 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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