Risk Factors for AIDS

A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to contract HIV infection and develop AIDS with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood to contract HIV infection and develop AIDS. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your healthcare provider what you can do to reduce your risk.

Certain lifestyle factors greatly increase your risk of contracting HIV infection and developing AIDS. By avoiding behaviors that are associated with increasing your risk, you can greatly reduce your risk.

Risk factors include:

Unprotected Sexual Activity

Most people become infected with HIV through sexual activity. You can contract AIDS by not using a condom when having sexual relations with a person infected with HIV. Not using condoms properly can also put you at increased risk for acquiring AIDS. During sex, the vagina, vulva, penis, rectum, and mouth can provide entry points for the virus.

Other risky behaviors include:

  • Having sexual relations with someone without knowing his or her HIV status
  • Having more than one sex partner
  • Having sex with someone who has more than one sexual partner
  • Anal intercourse

Sharing Needles or Syringes

Using a needle or syringe that contains small amounts of infected blood can transmit HIV infection.

Medical Conditions

Sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis , genital herpes , chlamydia infection, gonorrhea , and vaginal infections caused by bacteria tend to increase the risk of HIV transmission during sex with an HIV-infected partner.

Medical Procedures

Having a blood transfusion or receiving blood products before 1985 increases your risk of HIV infection and AIDS. Before blood banks began testing donated blood for HIV in 1985, there was no way of knowing if the blood was contaminated with HIV, and recipients could become infected through transfusions.

Receiving blood products, tissue or organ transplantation, or artificial insemination increases your risk of HIV infection and AIDS. Even though blood products are now screened for HIV, there is still some degree of risk because tests cannot detect HIV immediately after transmission.

Being a Healthcare Worker

Exposure to contaminated blood and needles puts healthcare workers at risk for HIV infection.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov.

Conn's Current Therapy 2001 . 53rd edition. WB Saunders Company; 2001.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website. Available at: http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/.

Textbook of Primary Care Medicine . 3rd edition. Mosby, Inc.; 2000.

Last reviewed January 2007 by Jill D. Landis, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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