Who is at Risk for HIV?

Am I at Risk for HIV?

It depends. HIV can be transmitted only through specific activities. Most commonly, people get or transmit HIV through sexual behaviors and needle or syringe use. Babies can also get HIV from an HIV-positive mother during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding. However, every exposure to HIV does not carry the same risk, and some sexual activities are riskier than others. Many factors can increase or decrease a person’s HIV risk. Also, there are many effective options for reducing the risk of HIV infection.

If you think you’re at risk for getting HIV, or that you might already have HIV, get tested. Testing is the only way to know for sure if you have HIV. Find out whether testing is recommended for you.

Many HIV tests are now quick, FREE, and painless. Ask your healthcare provider for an HIV test or use the HIV Testing and Care Services Locator to find a testing site near you. You can also buy a home testing kit at a pharmacy or online.

Visit CDC’s HIV Risk Reduction Tool (BETA) to learn more about HIV risk and get information tailored to meet your needs.

Looking for info about how HIV affects different groups? HIV can affect anyone regardless of sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, gender, or age. However, some groups of people in the United States are more likely to get HIV than others because of many factors, including the status of their sex partners, their risk behaviors, and where they live. Learn more below.

HIV Among Key Populations

Gay and Bisexual Men

Gay and bisexual men are more severely affected by HIV than any other group in the United States. In 2013, gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men made up an estimated 2% of the population but accounted for 55% of people living with HIV in the United States. If current diagnosis rates continue, 1 in 6 gay and bisexual men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime, including 1 in 2 Black/African American gay and bisexual men, 1 in 4 Hispanic/Latino gay and bisexual men, and 1 in 11 white gay and bisexual men. But these rates are not inevitable. We have more tools to prevent HIV than ever before.

To learn more, view the following CDC’s fact sheets:

Racial and Ethnic Groups

In the United States, HIV is spread mainly through anal or vaginal sex or by sharing drug-use equipment with an infected person. Although these HIV risk factors are the same for everyone, some racial/ethnic groups are more affected than others, given their percentage of the population. This is because some population groups have higher rates of HIV in their communities, thus raising the risk of new infections with each sexual or drug use encounter. Additionally, a range of social, economic, and demographic factors—such as stigma, discrimination, income, education, and geographic region—affect their risk for HIV.

Blacks/African Americans are the racial/ethnic group most affected by HIV in the United States. Compared with other races and ethnicities, African Americans account for a higher proportion of new HIV diagnoses, those living with HIV, and those ever diagnosed with AIDS. In 2014, African Americans comprised 12% of the U.S. population, but accounted for 44% of estimated new HIV diagnoses.

Hispanics/Latinos also are disproportionately affected by HIV in the United States. In 2014, Hispanics/Latinos represented about 17% of the U.S. population, but accounted for almost one quarter of all estimated new HIV diagnoses.

To learn more about how HIV affects these and racial/ethnic groups in the U.S., view the following CDC fact sheets:


Understanding how gender norms and gender inequality may/can influence HIV risk is essential to reducing HIV risk among men, women, and transgender persons.

Men are the gender group most impacted by HIV in the United States. Men accounted for 76% those living with HIV infection in the U.S., and 69% of males were gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM).

Women represent approximately a quarter of people living with HIV in the United States. Most new HIV diagnoses in women are attributed to heterosexual sex.

Studies also reveal high prevalence rates among transgender women in the United Sates, although data for transgender people is not uniformly collected.

To learn more, view the following CDC fact sheets:

People Who Inject Drugs

The risk for getting or transmitting HIV is very high if an HIV-negative person uses injection equipment that someone with HIV has used. This high risk is because the drug materials may have blood in them, and blood can carry HIV. HIV diagnoses among persons who inject drugs (PWID) declined 48% from 2008 to 2014. However, injection drug use (IDU) in nonurban areas due to the nation’s growing opioid epidemic has created prevention challenges and has placed new populations at risk for HIV, as well as for hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

To learn more, view the following CDC fact sheets:


HIV can affect people regardless of age. Young people ages 13 to 24 accounted for more than 1 in 5 new HIV diagnoses in 2014. Most of those occurred among young gay and bisexual males.
Young Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino gay and bisexual males are especially affected.

HIV affects older people as well. In 2013, people aged 55 and older accounted for more than 26% of all Americans living with diagnosed or undiagnosed HIV infection.

To learn about how HIV affects people across the lifespan, view the following CDC fact sheets:

Other Groups at Risk for HIV

Although the HIV risk factors are the same for everyone, some groups of people in the United States merit special consideration because of their unique needs for HIV prevention. To learn about these groups, view the following CDC fact sheets:

HIV Risk Across Geographic Areas

In the United States, the burden of HIV and AIDS is not evenly distributed across states and regions. It is concentrated in certain areas:

  • Major metropolitan areas have higher rates of HIV than other areas of the country.
  • Southern United States: The rates of HIV and AIDS diagnoses are higher in the U.S. South. More than one-third of the population lives in southern states, but the region accounts for more than half of all HIV diagnoses. In the South, larger percentages of diagnoses are in smaller metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas.

To learn more, view the following CDC resources:

Last revised: 03/14/2017