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Learn About HIV and AIDS

Today there are better treatments, more accurate tests and new ways to prevent HIV.

What are HIV and AIDS?

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). HIV attacks the body’s immune system and makes the person more likely to get other infections. If not treated, HIV weakens the body’s immune system and can lead to AIDS.

The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested.

How does HIV spread?

HIV can be found in certain fluids of an infected person’s body, including blood, semen, anal and vaginal fluids, and breast milk.

During sex

HIV can enter your bloodstream when tiny tears in your anus, rectum, vagina, penis or mouth come into contact with an infected partner’s blood, semen, or anal or vaginal fluids. HIV may also enter your body through open sores like those caused by herpes or syphilis.

While injecting drugs

HIV can enter your bloodstream when you share a syringe, drug solution, or other injection equipment with someone that has HIV.

How HIV does NOT spread

Other human body fluids and waste—like saliva, sweat, tears, urine and feces—do NOT contain enough HIV to infect you.

HIV does NOT spread through hugging, kissing, coughing, shaking hands, or sharing a toilet or drinking fountain.

What are the stages and symptoms of HIV?


It takes a few days for an HIV infection to develop in your body. If you may have been exposed to HIV in the past 36 hours, immediately go to a clinic or emergency room and ask for PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) to prevent HIV.

Recent or “Acute” Infection

People who were recently infected with HIV have a lot of virus in their bodies and can easily pass HIV to others. In the first few weeks after HIV infection, as the virus multiplies in the body, 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 for a test for acute HIV infection.

Chronic Infection

Most people with HIV show few symptoms for years after infection. They may look and feel healthy, but without treatment HIV will slowly damage their body and they can pass HIV to others. Protect yourself and others. Know your status—get tested regularly for HIV. If you have HIV, get treated.


If not treated, HIV infects and destroys CD4 cells (or “T cells”)—an important part of your 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 get treated for HIV.

How do I know if I have HIV?

The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested.

Are there treatments for HIV?

There is still no cure for HIV. But HIV treatment can keep people with HIV healthy and protect their partners. HIV medicines are easier to take and have fewer side effects than ever before. HIV treatment is recommended for everyone with HIV, even if you feel healthy.

HIV Reports and Publications

The Health Department conducts HIV/AIDS surveillance in New York City. Surveillance involves investigating reports from providers and laboratories for HIV-related information and actively searching for unreported cases. The Health Department also conducts research on HIV prevalence, incidence and behavior in populations at risk for HIV. Find out more about HIV/AIDS in New York City with these reports and publications.

On December 1, World AIDS Day 2016, the NYC Health Department shared the HIV care performance results of New York City health care facilities. Combined, these facilities care for about half of the HIV-infected people in care in NYC. This information is now available on the NYC Health Department’s HIV Care Continuum Dashboard.

Get Tested for HIV

Know your HIV status. The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested. All New Yorkers should #BeHIVsure and know their HIV status. Get tested for HIV today.

Make a Plan to Prevent the Spread of HIV

Protection against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) isn’t ‘one size fits all’. Whether you’re HIV negative or positive, you can make a plan to PlaySure to prevent the spread of HIV. People who are on HIV treatment and maintain an undetectable viral load do not transmit HIV. People who take daily PrEP have a very low risk of acquiring HIV.

Get Treated for HIV

Care and treatment services are available to all New Yorkers living with HIV, even if you do not have health insurance:

Provider Resources

If you are a medical provider, visit our provider resource page for additional HIV-related materials.

Ending the Epidemic: Strategies to End HIV in NYC

The following five strategies are part of the city's plan to reduce the number of new HIV infections to nonepidemic levels and improve the health and well-being of New Yorkers with HIV:

  1. Increase the number of people who know their HIV status by diagnosing HIV infection as early as possible, promoting routine testing within health care facilities and scaling up testing options in nonclinical settings.

  2. Prevent new HIV infections by increasing access to effective prevention interventions, including PrEP, emergency post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), condoms, harm reduction and supportive services.

  3. Improve viral suppression and other health outcomes for people with HIV by optimizing medication adherence and access to care, improving coordination of clinical and supportive services, and increasing access to immediate antiretroviral treatment.

  4. Enhance methods to identify and intervene on HIV transmission networks to better support people and communities at increased risk of exposure.

  5. In all strategies, use an intersectional, strengths-based, anti-stigma and community-driven approach to mitigate racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and other systems of oppression that create and exacerbate HIV-related health inequities.

Read a summary of the New York City Ending the Epidemic Plan (PDF).

What is the main goal?

The NYC Health Department is working to reduce the number of new infections in the City to fewer than 600 in 2020. This target aligns with New York State’s goal of reducing new statewide infections to fewer than 750 in 2020.

How was the strategy developed?

The NYC Health Department consulted with stakeholders and advocates in the community and worked with the HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA), City Hall and City Council, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop the EtE strategy. The NYC Health Department also collaborated with the NYS Department of Health to help develop their plan to end the statewide epidemic of HIV/AIDS.

Since the NYC Health Department has a history of robust and innovative programming to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS, the EtE strategy was designed to build upon these core activities to address perceived gaps and leverage exciting new biomedical prevention technologies.

How can New Yorkers learn more?

The NYC Health Department will be holding meetings open to all New Yorkers on a regular basis. These events will be an opportunity for community members to hear updates on the progress of the EtE initiatives, ask questions, and provide feedback on the strategy.

Three community meetings have already taken place. These slides were presented at those events:

Check back for more information about EtE. Email with any questions or comments.

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