Definition

  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) – a virus that attacks cells that help the body fight infection
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) – the most advanced stage of an HIV infection

Causes

HIV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can also be spread by contact with infected blood or from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breast-feeding.

Statistics

  • In 2018, approximately 37.9 million people across the globe were living with HIV/AIDS, and an estimated 1.7 million became newly infected 
  • AIDS-related deaths have been reduced by more than 55% since the virus’ peak in 2004: around 770,000 people in 2018; 1.2 million in 2010; and 1.7 million in 2004 (worldwide)
  • Approximately 1.1 million people are living with HIV in the US (14% don’t know it and need testing).
  • An estimated 38,000 new HIV infections occur each year in the US

Risk Factors

In the United States, HIV is mainly spread by having sex or sharing syringes and other injection equipment with someone who is infected with HIV. High risk behaviors that can contribute to HIV infection include:

  • Other sexually transmitted infection that may leave an open sore
  • Unprotected sex (anal, vaginal, or oral)
  • Using IV drugs

Prevention

There is no vaccine for HIV, and no cure for AIDS. The best ways to keep from contracting the virus are to:

  • Consider Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) if you are at a high risk of transmission (have a sexual partner with HIV, or are an IV drug user)
  • Quit IV drug use (if this is impossible, use a clean needle every time)
  • Use a new condom with each sexual encounter
  • Use Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) if you have had unprotected sex with an HIV positive individual

If you are HIV positive, the best ways you can protect others are to:

  • Get medical care right away if you become pregnant
  • Quit IV drug use (if this is impossible, use a clean needle every time)
  • Tell sexual partners about your HIV status
  • Use a new condom with each sexual partner
  • Use Treatment as Prevention

Vaccinations

Vaccines are especially critical for people with chronic health conditions such as HIV infection.

If you have HIV infection, talk with your doctor about:

COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS

Older adults and people of any age who have a serious underlying medical condition might be at higher risk for severe illness, including people who are immunocompromised. The risk for people with HIV getting very sick is greatest in those with a low CD4 count and those not on HIV treatment (antiretroviral therapy, ART). Click here for more information.

Resources

Delaware toll-free HIV/AIDS Hotline: (800) 422-0429

Support Groups