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Did you know?

You can have HIV and still feel perfectly healthy. The only way to know for sure whether you are infected is to get tested. Knowing your HIV status is one way you can help prevent the spread of HIV.

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV weakens your body's defense system, which makes it hard for your body to fight off other health problems that it could normally resist. As time goes on, your body becomes less able to fight off diseases.

Asian-Americans tend to have lower HIV rates than other racial/ethnic groups. But their levels of risky behaviors do not appear to be much lower than for other groups. Most Asian-American women with HIV got it from having unprotected sex with a man. Yet certain factors can make it hard for Asian-American women to protect themselves from HIV. They include:

  • Cultural factors — It may be hard for Asian-Americans to talk about "safe sex" and even harder to convince a partner to use condoms.
  • Low HIV testing rates — Asian-Americans are less likely to get tested for HIV than other groups. This means that a person can have HIV — and spread it — without knowing it.

All people should know their HIV status. The only sure way to know if you have HIV is to get tested. That's because you can have HIV and still feel healthy. Once you know your status, you can take steps to protect yourself and stop the spread of HIV:

  • Use latex condoms every time you have any kind of sex (vaginal, oral, or anal).
  • If you inject drugs and cannot or will not stop, do not share needles, syringes, or other items used to prepare drugs. Always use new, sterile syringes and needles. If you cannot get new ones, clean used ones with full-strength household bleach after each use. After unprotected sex, injection drug use is the next most common way that HIV is spread.
  • Be faithful. Only have sex with an uninfected partner who only has sex with you.

Another way HIV is spread is from an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy or delivery. Because many people who are infected with HIV don't know they have it, all newly pregnant women should be tested for HIV as early in the pregnancy as possible, even if they are at low risk. With early prenatal care and treatment, many babies of HIV-positive mothers do not get HIV.

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Content last updated: May 18, 2010.

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