About HIV and AIDS
Learn more about HIV Testing and where to test in your area
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) if not treated.
You can get or transmit HIV only through specific activities. Most commonly, people get or transmit HIV through sexual behaviors and needle or syringe use.
In the United States, HIV is spread mainly by
- Having unprotected (no condom) anal or vaginal sex without a condom and with someone who has HIV and who is not virally suppressed
- Sharing needles or syringes, rinse water, or other equipment (works) used to prepare drugs for injection with someone who has HIV. HIV can live in a used needle up to 42 days depending on temperature and other factors.
A much higher proportion of gay and bisexual men are living with HIV compared to any other group in the United States. Therefore gay and bisexual men have an increased chance of having an HIV-positive partner
1 in 6 gay and bisexual men living with HIV are unaware they have it.
- Most gay and bisexual men get HIV through having anal sex without condoms. Anal sex is the riskiest type of sex for getting or transmitting HIV. Receptive anal sex is 13 times as risky for getting HIV as insertive anal sex.
- Gay and bisexual men are also at increased risk for other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), like syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. Condoms can protect from some STDs, including HIV.
- Homophobia, stigma, and discrimination may place gay and bisexual men at risk for multiple physical and mental health problems and affect whether they take protective actions with their partners or seek and are able to obtain high-quality health services.
- Today, there more tools than ever to prevent HIV. In addition to abstinence, limiting your number of sexual partners, never sharing needles, and using condoms the right way every time you have sex, you may be able to take advantage of newer medicines such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).
If you are living with HIV, there are many actions you can take to prevent passing it to others. The most important is taking medicines to treat HIV (called antiretroviral therapy, or ART) the right way, every day. They can keep you healthy for many years and greatly reduce your chance of transmitting HIV to your partners.
HIV Frequently Asked Questions
HIV does not discriminate. It affects all ages, socio-economic groups, races, and sexual orientations. HIV is the virus that can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Virus (AIDS). In Montana, 727 people are living with HIV or AIDS.
HIV is transmitted through unprotected sexual activity with an infected person, by using infected needles, or through birth or breast milk if the mother is infected. You cannot get HIV through kissing, sharing a drinking glass, eating utensils or touching a toilet seat. Yet, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation public opinion survey, nearly one-half of Americans believe one or more of these misconceptions to be true.
Injection Drug Use (IDU) and HIV in Montana
About 1 in 10 new HIV diagnoses in the United States are attributed to injection drug use or the combination of male-to-male sexual contact and injection drug use. During the first six months of 2018, 11 new cases of HIV infection were investigated by public health officials in Montana. While this number is lower compared to 2017 when 15 cases were investigated, almost half of recent cases reported injecting drugs as a risk factor compared to an average of 22% in earlier years.
Injection drug use can also cause other diseases and complications. Substance abuse may also increase the risk of obtaining other sexually transmitted diseases (STD) or unwanted pregnancy. When people are using drugs, they are more likely to have unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners, which puts them at greater risk for other STDs.
How to Reduce Your Risk
The best way to reduce the risk of getting or transmitting HIV through injection drug use is to stop injecting drugs. If you continue injecting drugs, never share needles or works. Visit GetTested.mt.gov to find locations that have syringe services programs (SSPs)
Other things you can do to lower your risk of getting or transmitting HIV, if you continue to inject drugs, include:
- Cleaning used needles with bleach. This may reduce the risk of HIV but doesn't eliminate it.
- Using sterile water to fix drugs.
- Cleaning your skin with a new alcohol swab before you inject.
- Being careful not to get someone else's blood on your hands or your needle or works.
- Disposing of needles safely after one use. Use a sharps container, or keep used needles away from other people.
- Getting tested for HIV at least once a year.
- Asking your doctor about taking daily medicine to prevent HIV (called pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP).
- Using a condom the right way every time you have anal or vaginal sex. Learn the right way to use a male condom.
Resources for IDU
IDU and HIV 101:
CDC HIV and Injection Drugs 101 fact sheet
Hepatitis C and IDU:
CDC Hepatitis C & Injection Drug Use fact sheet
Gay and Bisexual Men’s Health:
CDC Gay and Bisexual Men's Health
CDC PrEP 101 fact sheet
Substance Abuse Treatment locater:
Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator
SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
Testing, Prevention and Treatment
Find a testing site near you at GetTested.mt.gov
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended HIV testing as part of routine medical examinations for anyone age 13 – 64. Anonymous or confidential HIV testing is available throughout Montana.
There is still no cure for HIV and AIDS, but breakthrough antiretroviral medicines have greatly increased the life expectancy of people living with HIV and AIDS.
Act Against Aids HIV testing and prevention campaign
CDC Frequently Asked Questions
For people with multiple sex partners, the best way to prevent the transmission of HIV is to use a latex condom for vaginal, anal or oral sex. For injecting drug users, never share needles or syringes for drugs, steroids or vitamins. Never share needles or inks for tattoos, ear piercing or body piercing. Don't mix sex and drugs. Alcohol and other drugs can make it difficult to avoid risky behavior. For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Treatment is Available
Ryan White HIV care programs throughout the state provide treatment and supportive services to increase access to care and treatment. Seventy-two (22%) of 2015 Ryan White enrollees were female. Women with HIV in Montana are more likely to be in care and have a lower percentage of progression from HIV to AIDS than males.
HIV Prevention Community Planning
Montana’s HIV prevention community planning process is structured for the purpose of meeting the goals for HIV Prevention Community Planning as described in the 2003-2008 HIV Prevention Community Planning Guidance.
Goal One – Community planning supports broad-based community participation in HIV prevention planning.
Goal Two - Community planning identifies priority HIV prevention needs (a set of priority target populations and interventions for each identified target population) in each jurisdiction.
Goal Three - Community planning ensures that that HIV prevention resources target priority populations and interventions set forth in the comprehensive HIV prevention plan.
Go to GetTested.mt.gov to find a Montana testing site near you.