HIV is the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS, which weakens the immune system and makes it more susceptible to other potentially deadly diseases. Although treatments have improved considerably, there is no cure for AIDS.

CDC estimates that 1,201,100 persons aged 13 years and older are living with HIV infection, including 168,300 (14%) who are unaware of their infection. Over the past decade, the number of people living with HIV has increased, while the annual number of new HIV infections has remained relatively stable. Still, the pace of new infections continues at far too high a level, particularly among certain groups. Men having sex with men (MSM) continue to bear the greatest burden of HIV infection, and among races/ethnicities, African Americans continue to be disproportionately affected.

In 2013, an estimated 47,352 people were diagnosed with HIV infection in the United States. In that same year, an estimated 26,688 people were diagnosed with AIDS. Overall, an estimated 1,194,039 people in the United States have been diagnosed with AIDS.

The HIV virus is very fragile and will not survive very long (seconds to minutes) outside the human body. The risk of healthcare workers being exposed to HIV on the job (occupational exposure) is very low, especially if they use protective practices and personal protective equipment to prevent HIV and other blood-borne infections. For health care workers on the job, the main risk of HIV transmission is through accidental injuries from needles and other sharp instruments that may be contaminated with the virus; however, even this risk is small. Scientists estimate that the risk of HIV infection from being stuck with a needle used on an HIV-infected person is less than 1%.

For more information on preventing occupational exposure to HIV, see the CDC fact sheet, Occupational HIV Transmission and Prevention Among Health Care Workers.

There is no vaccine for prevention of HIV. However, pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is a prevention option for people who are at high risk of getting HIV. It’s meant to be used consistently, as a pill taken every day, and to be used with other prevention options such as condoms. Find out if PrEP is right for you.


Symptoms of initial infection with HIV can vary but often appear as flu-like symptoms, including fever, weakness, sore throat, nausea, headache and diarrhea. Eventually, the individual may develop swollen lymph glands and a weakened immune system and become susceptible to opportunistic infections. The diagnosis is made by the use of specific blood tests. Confidential HIV testing for students is available at the JMU University Health Center for a small fee, call 540-568-6178 for an appointment.


STD testing is available at the University Health Center to ensure that infections are detected and treated early to help reduce the risk of STD and HIV transmission. Safer sex supplies are available to students at no cost by visiting the Safer Sex Centers located at each entrance of the University Health Center, located in the Student Success Center.  Abstinence and using Universal Precautions in emergency situations are the number one way to reduce the risk of HIV transmission.


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