URL of this page: https://medlineplus.gov/hivaidsinwomen.html

HIV/AIDS in Women

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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:

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.

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Diagnosis and Tests

  • HIV Testing (Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health) Also in Spanish

Prevention and Risk Factors


Statistics and Research

Clinical Trials

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The information on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Contact a health care provider if you have questions about your health.