How do you get HIV/AIDS?

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 Someone asked us:

this may be a stupid question, but how do you get aids?

That’s not a stupid question — it’s a smart one!

In simple terms, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) develops when HIV damages the body’s immune so much, it’s unable to fight off infections.

Usually when people ask how you get AIDS, they’re really talking about HIV — HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. The way people catch HIV is through semen, vaginal fluids, blood, or breast milk.

The most common ways people get HIV are by having unprotected vaginal or anal sex, or sharing needles. Some other possible ways to get HIV are unprotected oral sex (this is very rare), and from mother to baby during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. You CANNOT get HIV from kissing, touching skin, toilet seats, sharing silverware, or any other kind of casual contact. 

So basically: HIV is the virus that’s spread person-to-person, and AIDS is the disease that develops as a result of the damage caused by HIV.

Although HIV/AIDS isn’t curable, it is treatable. Many people living with HIV/AIDS today are able to live long, healthy lives, especially if they start treatment early. This is part of the reason HIV testing is so important: the sooner you know you have HIV, the sooner you can start treatment and the healthier you’ll be.

You can protect yourself from the virus by making sure to practice safer sex (like using condoms), and getting tested regularly so you can know your status.

-Mylanie at Planned Parenthood