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Certain lifestyle factors greatly increase your risk of contracting HIV 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 condom 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:

  • Sex with someone without knowing his or her HIV status
  • More than one sex partner
  • Sex with someone who has more than one sexual partner
  • Anal intercourse
  • Sex with prostitutes
  • Men who have sex with other 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 circumcised can also increase the risk of getting HIV infection.

Having a blood transfusion 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.

Receiving blood products, tissue or organ transplantation, or artificial insemination increases your risk of HIV infection and AIDS. Even though blood products are now screened for HIV, there is still some degree of risk because tests cannot detect HIV immediately after transmission.

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 get tested. There are also ways to be anonymously tested such as community clinics or home testing kits that do not require your identification.

References:

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.

HIV/AIDS. Center for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/index.html. Accessed May 15, 2013.

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.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010. MMWR. 2010;59(No. RR-12):1-110.

Last reviewed July 2013 by Michael Woods, MD

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.