Is the Risk of HIV Different for Different Groups?
HIV can affect anyone regardless of sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, gender, age, or where they live. However, certain groups of people in the United States are more likely to get HIV than others because of particular factors, including the communities in which they live, what subpopulations they belong to, and their risk behaviors.
Communities. When you live in a community where many people have HIV infection, the chance of being exposed to HIV by having sex or sharing needles or other injection equipment with someone who has HIV is higher. You can use CDC’s HIV, STD, hepatitis, and tuberculosis Atlas Plus to see the percentage of people with HIV (“prevalence”) in different U.S. counties and states, as well as other data. Within any community, the prevalence of HIV can vary among different subpopulations.
Subpopulations. In the United States, gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men are the population most affected by HIV. According to CDC, in 2018, gay and bisexual men accounted for 69% of new HIV diagnoses. By race/ethnicity, Blacks/African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos are disproportionately affected by HIV compared to other racial and ethnic groups. Also, transgender women who have sex with men are among the groups at highest risk for HIV infection, and injection drug users remain at significant risk for getting HIV.
Risk behaviors. In the United States, HIV is spread mainly through having anal or vaginal sex or sharing needles or syringes with an HIV-positive partner. Anal sex is the highest-risk behavior. Fortunately, there are more HIV prevention tools available today than ever before. These include using condoms correctly, every time you have sex; pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a prevention method in which the HIV-negative partner takes daily HIV medicine to prevent HIV; and treatment as prevention, a method in which the HIV-positive partner takes daily HIV medicine to achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load. If a person with HIV takes HIV treatment every day exactly as prescribed and gets and keeps an undetectable viral load, they have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to their partners through sex.
Visit our U.S. Statistics page for more information on how HIV affects different populations.
What Should I Do If I Think I’m At Risk for HIV?
If you think you’re at risk for getting HIV, or that you might already have HIV, get tested and learn about the effective HIV prevention and treatment options available today.
Testing is the only way to know for sure if you have HIV. Find out whether testing is recommended for you.
Many HIV tests are now quick, free, and painless. Ask your health care provider for an HIV test or use the HIV Services Locator to find a testing site near you. You can also buy an FDA-approved home testing kit at a pharmacy or online.
Knowing your HIV status gives you powerful information to help you take steps to keep you and your partner(s) healthy:
- If you test positive, you can start HIV treatment to stay healthy and prevent transmitting HIV to others.
- If you test negative, you can use HIV prevention tools to reduce your risk of getting HIV in the future.
Learn More about Groups at Higher Risk for HIV
The CDC fact sheets listed below provide in-depth information about groups at greater risk for HIV. More links are provided under Additional Resources.
Risk by sexual orientation
Risk by gender
Risk by race/ethnicity
- HIV and African Americans
- HIV and American Indians and Alaska Natives
- HIV and Asians
- HIV and Hispanics/Latinos
- HIV and Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders