What increases my risk for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)?

The riskiest behavior when it comes to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission is sharing needles to inject drugs with someone who is HIV infected. The next-riskiest behavior is anal sex, followed by vaginal sex. You should never have unprotected anal or vaginal sexual intercourse with anyone whose HIV status you are unsure of.

Many people report no symptoms when they are first infected with the HIV. That is why it is important to ask your healthcare provider about testing if you have risk factors, such as:
  • having unprotected sex with multiple partners
  • sharing needles with an HIV-infected person
  • having unprotected sex with bisexual men or men who inject drugs
  • having other sexually transmitted diseases, such as herpes, syphilis or gonorrhea
Transmission via the sharing of needles is a risk factor because at the start of every intravenous injection, blood is introduced into needles and syringes. HIV can be found in the blood of a person infected with the virus. The reuse of a blood-contaminated needle or syringe by another injection drug user carries a high risk of HIV transmission because infected blood can be injected directly into the bloodstream.
The human immunodeficiency virus is transmitted by sexual contact and by fluid transmission. It is found in blood, semen and vaginal fluid of someone who is infected with the virus. Activities that increase risk include anal, vaginal or oral sex when not using protection. Men who have sex with men, people who have multiple partners, and having sex with anonymous partners also increases risk of infection. Sharing needles/syringes for drugs or steroids can lead to infection with HIV. In some cases a fetus or infant exposed during birth or through breastfeeding from a mother infected with HIV can lead to infection. Blood transfusions from 1978 to 1985 were not screened and may be a possible cause of infection.

Above all else unprotected sex with someone who has a history of sexually transmitted infections, is a drug user or has multiple partners will increase the risk of HIV infection.
Anyone can become infected with HIV. You are putting yourself at a higher risk if you have unprotected sex. A person of any sexual orientation should not have sex without protection, such as latex or polyurethane condoms. Intravenous drug users who share needles have a high risk of contracting HIV. Your risk is even greater if you already have a sexually transmitted disease, or if you have tuberculosis, malaria, or hepatitis. Having sex for money or drugs also puts you at high risk. People who received blood transfusions or clotting factor prior to 1985 were at high risk. Children are at risk if they were born to HIV-infected mothers who did not receive medical aid or if those mothers breastfed them.

Continue Learning about HIV and AIDS



HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, slowly destroys the body’s immune system and causes AIDS if not treated. It can be spread through unprotected sex and sexual contact, contaminated blood transfusions, contaminated needles and ...

syringes, and through breastfeeding or transferred at birth from a mother to her child.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.