|HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS. The most common ways that HIV is transmitted from one person to another are by having sex (anal, vaginal, or oral) with an HIV-infected person; by sharing needles or injection equipment with an injection drug user who is infected with HIV; or from HIV-infected women to their babies before or during birth, or through breast-feeding after birth. HIV also can be transmitted through receipt of infected blood or blood clotting factors. However, since 1985, all donated blood in the United States has been tested for HIV. Therefore, the risk of infection through transfusion of blood or blood products is extremely low. The U.S. blood supply is considered to be among the safest in the world.
The only way to know if you are infected is to be tested for HIV infection. You cannot rely on symptoms to know whether or not you are infected with HIV. Many people who are infected with HIV do not have any symptoms at all or for many years.
The surest way to prevent yourself from HIV/AIDS and other STDs is to not have sexual contact, or to be in mutually monogamous relationship (meaning neither of you have sex with anyone else) with one partner who has been tested and does not have HIV/AIDS or other STDs. If you are sexually active, use a condom every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
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