About HIV

It is estimated that there are 1,148,200 persons aged 13 years and older that are currently living with HIV. 1 in 5 of those individuals does not know that they are HIV positive. This means that nationally 207,600 people are unaware of their current HIV infection. Over the last decade, the number of people living with HIV has increased, and the annual number of new infections (about 50,000 new infections a year) has stayed relatively stable. When looking at the different populations of people infected with HIV, it becomes clear that some groups are affected more than others. Men who have sex with men continue to bear the greatest burden of HIV infection; while among races/ethnicities, black individuals continue to be disproportionately affected.

Young gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men remain at risk of becoming infected with HIV. In 2009, young people aged 13 -29 accounted for 39% of new HIV infections. This 39% consisted of an estimated 8,294 young individuals. Of these 8,294 people, young black individuals accounted for 65% (or 5,404) of newly identified HIV infection cases reported among persons aged 13 -24. The data shows that young gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (especially young Black and young Latino men who have sex with men) have high rates of new HIV infection.

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What is HIV?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, is a viral infection that can be transmitted from one person to another. HIV lives in blood and other body fluids that contain blood or white blood cells. A person can acquire HIV through unprotected sexual intercourse with another person who is currently infected with HIV. Unprotected sexual intercourse includes anal sex, vaginal sex, or oral sex without the use of a condom. HIV can also be transferred by sharing needles during drug use or by accidently being stuck by a contaminated needle or another contaminated sharp object. HIV may also be transferred from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding; if the mother is HIV positive. HIV can also be transmitted through blood transfusions with infected blood or transplants with organs from an infected donor. In the United States, routine screening for HIV in blood donations and donated organs began in 1985. The risk of acquiring HIV through a blood transfusion or organ transplants is very low in the United States due to the current screening process for donated blood and donated organs.

HIV is not able to live or reproduce outside of the human body. This means that HIV is not spread through air or water. HIV cannot be transmitted through casual contact (or activities where blood or body fluids are not exchanged). Casual contact includes activities like shaking hands, sharing dishes, or closed mouth kissing. HIV is not spread through saliva, tears, or sweat. There is no current documented case of HIV being spread through the act of spitting. HIV is not spread by insect bites, such as mosquitos. There has been no evidence to show that HIV can be transmitted from an insect to a human being.

How is HIV Treated?

There is currently no cure for HIV infection. However, there are treatment options that can help individuals to live long and productive lives. The Center for Disease Control and other government agencies continue to work on new research activities in order to make advancements in the treatment of HIV infection. These activities include HIV clinical research, drug trials, vaccine research, development of treatment guidelines, and creating and implementing evidence based prevention programs that can help to stop new infections.

There is also a comprehensive network of healthcare providers that help get new HIV positive individuals enrolled in ongoing medical care and treatment options. This network will help individuals to set up regular HIV medical care, access medications, and assist with other basic health care needs. Individuals are connected with this network of care once they receive a positive HIV test result.