Am I at Risk for HIV?
HIV can be transmitted through certain bodily fluids: blood, semen (cum), pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum), rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. If you have engaged in behaviors that put you in contact with these bodily fluids, you may be at risk for getting HIV. These behaviors include having vaginal or anal sex without a condom or without being on medicines that prevent or treat HIV, or sharing injection drug equipment with someone who has HIV.
CDC recommends that health care providers test everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 at least once as part of routine health care, regardless of their perceived risk. That’s because one in six people living with HIV in the United States do not know they are infected. So don’t be surprised if your provider recommends an HIV test if there is no evidence of one in your medical record. If he or she doesn’t suggest an HIV test, be sure to ask about it.
In addition, if you answer yes to any of the following questions, you are at increased risk for HIV infection and should definitely get an HIV test:
- Have you had sex with someone who is HIV-positive or a person whose HIV status you didn’t know since your last HIV test?
- Have you injected drugs (including steroids, hormones, or silicone) and shared equipment (or “works,” such as needles or syringes) with others?
- Have you exchanged sex for food, shelter, drugs, or money?
- Have you been diagnosed with, or sought treatment for a sexually transmitted disease, like syphilis?
- Have you been diagnosed with or sought treatment for hepatitis or tuberculosis (TB)?
- Have you had sex with anyone who has any of the risk factors listed above or whose history you don’t know?
If you continue having unsafe sex or sharing injection drug equipment, you should get tested at least once a year. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from more frequent testing (e.g. every 3 to 6 months).
You should also get tested if:
- You have been sexually assaulted
- You are a woman who is planning to get pregnant or is pregnant.
Groups at Risk for HIV
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 risk factors are the same for everyone, some groups are more affected than others for a variety of possible reasons.
Racial and Ethnic Groups
Although the 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.
CDC provides information on HIV statistics and the HIV prevention challenges for various groups, and what CDC is doing to address them. Click on the links below to be directed to CDC’s information pages on these groups:
- African Americans
- American Indians/Alaska Natives
- Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders
Although the HIV risk factors are the same for everyone, some gender groups are far more affected than others. Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, for example, account for the majority of new HIV infections in the U.S. each year despite making up only 2% of the population.
CDC provides information on HIV statistics and the HIV prevention challenges for gender groups, and what CDC is doing to address them. Click on the links below to be directed to CDC’s information pages on these groups:
Although the HIV risk factors are the same for everyone, some groups merit special consideration because of their age. For example, in the U.S. new HIV infections are increasing among young men who have sex with men, especially young, black men who have sex with men (ages 13-24), despite remaining steady overall.
CDC provides information on HIV statistics and the HIV prevention challenges facing these groups, and what CDC is doing to address them. Click on the links below to be directed to CDC’s information pages on these groups:
Other Risk Groups
Although the HIV risk factors are the same for everyone, some groups merit special consideration because of their unique needs for HIV prevention. CDC provides information on HIV statistics and the HIV prevention challenges facing these groups, and what CDC is doing to address them. Click on the links below to be directed to CDC’s information pages on these groups:
- People Who Are Incarcerated
- Health Care Workers
- People Who Are Economically Disadvantaged
- Sex Workers
What Should I Do if I Think I’m At Risk For HIV?
If you think you’re at risk for HIV, or that you might already have HIV, get tested. Testing is relatively simple. You can get an HIV test from your doctor or healthcare provider, community health center, Veteran’s health center, Title X family planning clinic, and other locations. There also are FDA-approved HIV home test kits you can use.
One of the easiest ways to find an HIV testing location is to use the HIV Testing & Care Services Locator. Just type in your ZIP code and, within seconds, you will get a list of HIV testing sites near you—including those that offer free HIV testing!
What If I Don’t Think I Am at Risk? Should I Still Get Tested?
Some people who test positive for HIV did not perceive themselves to be at risk. That’s why CDC recommends that providers in all health care settings make HIV testing a routine part of medical care for patients aged 13 to 64, unless the patient declines (opts out). This practice helps get more people tested and also helps reduce the stigma around testing.
Even if you have been in a long-term relationship with one person, you should find out for sure whether you or your partner has HIV. If you are both HIV-negative and you both stay faithful (only have sex with each other) and do not have other risks for HIV infection, then you probably won’t need another HIV test unless your situation changes.
Related Topics on AIDS.gov
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I reduce my risk of getting HIV?
There are several ways to protect yourself from getting HIV. These include using condoms consistently and correctly, reducing your number of sex partners, and never sharing injection drug use needles or equipment (“works”). There are also HIV medicines you can take to prevent HIV infection. For details, see our page, Lower Your Sexual Risk for HIV.
Can I get vaccinated to prevent HIV?
No. There is currently no vaccine that will prevent HIV infection or treat those who have it.
How does the Affordable Care Act (ACA) help people at risk for HIV?
The ACA helps all Americans, including those at risk for HIV, have access to the best quality coverage and care. The CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Services (NCHHSTP) offers a helpful table of recommended preventive services for people at risk for HIV and shows which health insurance plans cover these services without cost sharing under the ACA.
Last revised: 12/02/2014