What are HIV and AIDS?
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It harms your immune system by destroying the white blood cells that fight infection. AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. It is the final stage of infection with HIV. Not everyone with HIV develops AIDS.
How does HIV spread?
HIV can spread in different ways:
- Through unprotected sex with a person who has HIV. This is the most common way it spreads. Women may be at greater risk of being infected with HIV during sexual contact than men are. For example, vaginal tissue is fragile and can tear during sex. This can let HIV enter the body. Also, the vagina has a large surface area that can be exposed to the virus.
- By sharing drug needles
- Through contact with the blood of a person who has HIV
- From mother to baby during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding
How does HIV/AIDS affect women differently from men?
About one in four people in the United States who have HIV are women. Women who have HIV/AIDS have some different problems from men:
- Complications such as
- Different, sometimes more severe, side effects from the medicines that treat HIV/AIDS
- Drug interactions between some HIV/AIDS medicines and hormonal birth control
- The risk of giving HIV to their baby while pregnant or during childbirth
Are there treatments for HIV/AIDS?
There is no cure, but there are many medicines to treat both HIV infection and the infections and cancers that come with it. People who get early treatment canlive longer and healthier lives.
- Women and HIV (Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health) Also in Spanish
- Women and HIV: Get the Facts on HIV Testing, Prevention, and Treatment (Food and Drug Administration) Also in Spanish
Statistics and Research
- HIV among Women (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Also in Spanish
- Intersection of Intimate Partner Violence and HIV in Women (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) - PDF
- ClinicalTrials.gov: HIV/AIDS in Women (National Institutes of Health)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Prevalence and factors associated with HIV-1 drug resistance mutations in treatment-experienced...
- Article: The impact of COVID-19 on mentoring early-career investigators: "Everything can wait....
- Article: Eliminating HIV transmission through breast milk from women taking antiretroviral drugs.
- HIV/AIDS in Women -- see more articles
Find an Expert
- Clinicalinfo: Information on HIV/AIDS Treatment, Prevention, and Research (HIV.gov; National Institutes of Health, Office of AIDS Research) Also in Spanish
- Find an Ob-Gyn (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists)
- HIV.gov (National Institutes of Health, Office of AIDS Research)
- HIVinfo (National Institutes of Health, Office of AIDS Research)
- NIAID Division of AIDS (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)