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Risk Factors for AIDS

A risk factor makes the chances of getting a disease or condition higher. You can have HIV with or without any of those listed below. But the more risks you have, the higher the chances of getting HIV.

Certain lifestyle factors are linked to HIV infection. By avoiding or changing certain behaviors, you can lower your risk. The most common risks are:

Having Unprotected Sex

Most people get HIV by having sex. During sex, the genitals, rectum, and mouth allow the virus to enter the body. Any time you have sex, use a condom or other protection. Using condoms all the time will lower your risk. Keep in mind that sex is any act that involves exchanging bodily fluids.

Your chances of HIV are also higher for:

  • Men who have sex with men
  • Having a partner who is at high risk or already has HIV
  • Having many sex partners
  • Sex with someone who has many partners
  • Regular exposure to blood or bodily fluids with HIV
  • Having a mother with HIV when you were born
  • Living in or staying in places where HIV infection is common
  • Having an uncircumcised penis

Drug Use

Using needles to inject drugs makes your chances of HIV higher. This is mainly true if they're dirty needles or you share them with others. Even a small amount of blood with HIV can be passed to you.

Having Certain Health Problems

Having a sexually transmitted infection (STI) makes your risk of HIV higher. The most common ones are:

Having sex with someone with HIV makes your risk higher if you have a vaginal infection or an STI.

Blood Products

Blood banks didn’t test for HIV until 1985. There was no way of knowing if the blood had HIV in it. The infection was passed through blood transfusions. There is still some degree of risk because tests can't find HIV in a donor who just got it.

It' not common but tissue or organ transplantation and artificial insemination can make your risk higher.

Having Certain Jobs

Working in a place where you are in contact touching with other people and/or their bodily fluids makes your risk of HIV higher. These are people who work in:

  • Healthcare
  • Prisons
  • Labs

2015 Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated January 25, 2017. Accessed September 17, 2018.

Acute HIV infection. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated October 26, 2016. Accessed September 17, 2018.

Guide for HIV/AIDS clinical care. National Institute of Health and Human Services website. Available at: Updated April 2014. Accessed September 17, 2018.

HIV transmission. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated August 13, 2018. Accessed August 10, 2016.

Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board David L. Horn, MD, FACP  Last Updated: 10/23/2020