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HIV in Women

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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:

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 can live 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.