Testing, Treatment and Prevention

Visit an NYC Sexual Health Clinic or use the NYC Health Map to find HIV testing and treatment, and PrEP, emergency PEP and condoms to prevent HIV.

  • Get tested for HIV at least once a year to protect yourself and your sex partners. Getting tested is the only way to know if you have HIV.
  • Get treated if you have HIV. Treatment medicines reduce the HIV in your body and help you live a long and healthy life. People with undetectable HIV cannot pass HIV to others through sex.
  • Take PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) to prevent HIV. PrEP is safe and effective medicine and is available as a daily pill or an injection you get every two months.
  • Take emergency PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) to prevent HIV if you may have been exposed. Start emergency PEP as soon as possible, and no more than 72 hours after exposure.
  • Use condoms. When used consistently and correctly, condoms prevent HIV, other sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy.
  • If you inject drugs, avoid sharing syringes and other equipment to prevent HIV and hepatitis C. Free syringes (PDF) are available all over New York City.

Get tested for other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If left untreated, STIs can damage your body, spread to others, and make it easier to get or spread HIV.

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome).

How HIV Spreads

The virus can be found in certain fluids in the bodies of people who have HIV, including blood, semen, anal and vaginal fluids, and breast milk.

During Sex

HIV can enter a person’s bloodstream through tiny tears in the anus, rectum, vagina, penis or mouth, or through open sores like those caused by herpes or syphilis.

A person’s chance of getting HIV depends on:

  • The type of sex they have: It is much easier for HIV to spread through anal or vaginal sex than oral sex.
  • How much HIV is in their partner’s body: A person who is on HIV treatment and has an undetectable level of virus in their body cannot transmit HIV through sex.
  • If they use an effective form of prevention: Condoms, PrEP and emergency PEP prevent the spread of HIV.

While Injecting Drugs

HIV can enter a person’s bloodstream when they share a syringe or other injection equipment with someone who has HIV. Always use your own syringes (PDF) and other equipment.

From Parent to Child

HIV can spread during childbirth or breastfeeding. To protect your baby, get an HIV test before you give birth, and start or stay on treatment if you have HIV.

How HIV Does Not Spread

Other body fluids and waste — like saliva, sweat, tears, urine, and feces — do not contain enough virus to transmit HIV. You cannot get HIV through hugging, kissing, coughing, shaking hands, or sharing a toilet or drinking fountain.

Stages and Symptoms of HIV and AIDS


It takes a few days for an HIV infection to develop in a person’s body. If you may have been exposed to HIV in the past 72 hours, take emergency PEP to prevent a new HIV infection.

Recent or “Acute” Infection

In the first few weeks after infection, people with HIV have a high level of virus in their bodies and can easily pass HIV to others. As the virus multiplies, some people develop flu-like symptoms including fever, swollen glands, aches and pains. If you experience symptoms or may recently have been exposed to HIV, avoid having sex and go to a clinic or hospital and ask to be tested for acute HIV infection.

Chronic infection

Most people show few symptoms for years after they get HIV. They may look and feel healthy, but without treatment HIV will slowly damage their body and can spread to other people. To protect yourself and others, get regularly tested for HIV and start treatment right away if you have HIV.


If not treated, HIV destroys CD4 cells (or “T cells”) — an important part of the body’s immune system. If HIV destroys enough CD4 cells, rare cancers and infections begin to attack the body. This stage is called AIDS. To prevent AIDS, get tested and treated for HIV.

Additional Resources

More Information