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HIV: Basic Facts About HIV

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HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) weakens a person’s immune system by destroying the body’s cells that fight disease and infection.

If it’s not treated, it can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). There isn’t a cure for HIV, but you can manage it with treatment.

The only way to know for sure whether you have HIV is to get tested. If you’re at risk for HIV, get tested regularly so you can start treatment right away if needed. Knowing your HIV status helps you make healthy decisions to prevent getting or transmitting HIV. If you have HIV, treatment can help keep the virus from spreading to others. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) Division of Public Health funds local agencies that provide free HIV testing.

You can lead a healthy and full life living with HIV.

Prevention is key

Some groups of people are more at risk for HIV than others. These include people who are:

  • Bisexual.
  • Gay.
  • Men who have sex with men.
  • Racial and ethnic minorities (especially African Americans).
  • Young.

You can prevent HIV by:

  • Limiting your number of sexual partners.
  • Never sharing needles.
  • Not having sex.
  • Using a condom correctly every time you have sex.

Learn more about preventing HIV.

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In addition, there are medicines you can take to prevent HIV:

Learn more about pre-exposure prophylaxis.

Find an agency that offers HIV prevention services: Wisconsin Agencies Funded to Provide HIV Prevention Services, P-02336 (PDF).


HIV testing

If you suspect you have HIV, you should get tested. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone ages 13 to 64 get tested for HIV at least once.

When you know your HIV status, you can take steps to keep yourself and your partners healthy. .

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Living with HIV

If you’re living with HIV, you can do things to keep yourself healthy and protect others.

Some of these include:

  • Discussing your HIV status with sex and needle-sharing partners.
  • Getting support from health care providers and others.
  • Reducing the risk to others by taking your medicine as prescribed. (When you do this, the amount of HIV in your body can become so small you can’t pass it to others through sex.)
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Learn more about HIV

Last revised July 21, 2023