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What is HIV?
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It harms your immune system by destroying a type of white blood cell that helps your body fight infection. This puts you at risk for other infections and diseases.
How does HIV spread?
HIV can spread in different ways:
- By having unprotected vaginal or anal sex with a person who has HIV. "Unprotected" means not using condoms or medicine to treat or prevent HIV. This is the most common way it spreads.
- Anal sex is the riskiest type of sex for getting or spreading HIV. The rectum's lining is thin and may allow HIV to enter the body during anal sex.
- During vaginal sex, HIV can enter the body through the delicate tissue that lines the vagina and cervix.
- Rarely, through oral sex with a person who has HIV.
- 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 affect women differently from men?
About one in four people in the United States who have HIV are women. Women who have HIV have some different problems from men:
- Complications such as
- Repeated vaginal yeast infections
- Severe pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- A higher risk of cervical cancer
- Menstrual cycle problems
- A higher risk of osteoporosis
- A higher risk of heart disease, especially heart attacks
- Entering menopause younger or having more severe hot flashes
- Different, sometimes more severe, side effects from the medicines that treat HIV
- Drug interactions between some HIV medicines and hormonal birth control
- The risk of giving HIV to their baby while pregnancy or during childbirth
Are there treatments for HIVS?
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
Diagnosis and Tests
- HIV Testing (Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health) Also in Spanish
Prevention and Risk Factors
- HIV and Women (National Institutes of Health, Office of AIDS Research) Also in Spanish
- HIV Prevention and Women (Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health)
- HIV/AIDS and Pregnancy: MedlinePlus Health Topic (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
Statistics and Research
- HIV and 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: Risk-based versus universal PrEP delivery during pregnancy: a cluster randomized trial...
- Article: Clinic-based SAMBA-II vs centralized laboratory viral load assays among HIV-1 infected...
- Article: Prevention of recurrence of bacterial vaginosis using lactobacilli-containing vaginal tablets among...
- HIV 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)