Risks of HIV and AIDS

Find out about the risks of getting the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and developing acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Also learn who is most at risk.

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What are the risks of getting HIV and developing AIDS?

The risks of getting HIV and having the infection develop into AIDS are as follows.

Getting HIV

The risks of getting HIV are mostly behaviour-based. You can get HIV by:

  • having sex with an infected person without using a condom during:
    • vaginal sex
    • anal sex
  • performing oral sex without a condom
    • this is considered low risk unless you have open sores or cuts in your mouth
    • using a condom during oral sex can reduce the risk
  • sharing sex toys you insert into your body without cleaning them between partners
  • having broken skin or open wounds come in contact with infected:
    • blood
    • blood products
  • sharing drug paraphernalia with an infected person, such as:
    • needles
    • syringes
    • cookers
    • spoons
    • water
    • filters

Developing AIDS

You cannot develop AIDS unless you are infected with HIV. Most HIV infections will develop into AIDS. You can reduce the risk of developing AIDS by starting treatment.

Who is most at risk?

You are at higher risk of HIV infection if you:

  • already have another sexually transmitted infection (STI), because of:
    • your weakened immune system
    • open sores on your skin caused by an STI, such as herpes or syphilis
  • have sex with many sex partners without using a condom
  • receive a blood transfusion or organ transplant while in a country that does not properly check for contaminated:
  • blood products
  • organ supplies

Some people are at higher risk because of whom they have sex with. For example, certain groups, such as men who have sex with men, have a higher rate of HIV infection. People in these groups are more likely to meet a partner with HIV infection.

If you are infected with HIV, you are also at higher risk of:

  • becoming infected with another STI
  • passing HIV to a sex partner
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