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What Is HIV?

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS, if not treated. Unlike some other viruses, the human body can’t get rid of HIV completely, even with treatment. So once you get HIV, you have it for life.

HIV attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells (T cells), which help the immune system fight off infections. Untreated, HIV reduces the number of CD4 cells (T cells) in the body, making the person more likely to get other infections or infection-related cancers. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. These opportunistic infections or cancers take advantage of a very weak immune system and signal that the person has AIDS, the last stage of HIV infection.

No effective cure currently exists, but with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. The medicine used to treat HIV is called antiretroviral therapy or ART. If taken the right way, every day, this medicine can dramatically prolong the lives of many people infected with HIV, keep them healthy, and greatly lower their chance of infecting others. Before the introduction of ART in the mid-1990s, people with HIV could progress to AIDS in just a few years. Today, someone diagnosed with HIV and treated before the disease is far advanced can live nearly as long as someone who does not have HIV.

What Is AIDS?

AIDS is the most severe phase of HIV infection. People with AIDS have such badly damaged immune systems that they get an increasing number of severe illnesses, called opportunistic infections.

How Is HIV Transmitted?

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.

Only certain body fluids—blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk—from a person who has HIV can transmit HIV. These fluids must come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into the bloodstream (from a needle or syringe) for transmission to occur. Mucous membranes are found inside the rectum, vagina, penis, and mouth.

In the United States, HIV is spread mainly by

  • Having anal or vaginal sex with someone who has HIV without using a condom or taking medicines to prevent or treat HIV.
    • For the HIV-negative partner, receptive anal sex (bottoming) is the highest-risk sexual behavior, but you can also get HIV from insertive anal sex (topping).
    • Either partner can get HIV through vaginal sex, though it is less risky for getting HIV than receptive anal sex.
  • 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.

Who is at Risk for HIV?

HIV can affect anyone regardless of sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, gender or age. However, certain groups are at higher risk for HIV and merit special consideration because of particular risk factors.

Gay and bisexual men have the largest number of new diagnoses in the United States. 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.

Risky behaviors, like having anal or vaginal sex without using a condom or taking medicines to prevent or treat HIV, and sharing needles or syringes play a big role in HIV transmission. Anal sex is the highest-risk sexual behavior. If you don’t have HIV, being a receptive partner (or bottom) for anal sex is the highest-risk sexual activity for getting HIV. If you do have HIV, being the insertive partner (or top) for anal sex is the highest-risk sexual activity for transmitting HIV.

How Can I Tell if I Have HIV?

You can't rely on symptoms to tell if you have HIV. The only way to know for sure is to GET TESTED.You cannot rely on symptoms to tell whether you have HIV. The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested. Knowing your status is important because it helps you make healthy decisions to prevent getting or transmitting HIV.


2018 HIV and API Factsheet

2018 Stigma Factsheet

Media Advisory Template 05192017

Talking Points Template 05192018

National API HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

HIV stigma hurts individuals and our API community. Saving face can’t make you safe when Asians have statistically significant growth of HIV infection (5% increase from 2010-2014)! We need to empower each other to build healthier communities.

Saving face can't make you safe. Talk about HIV. Get PrEP.

Do You Know if You Have HIV?

66.5% of Asian Americans and 43.1% of Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders have never been tested for HIV. We’ve got the lowest HIV testing rates of all races and ethnicities! With low testing rates, that means an estimated 1 in 5 APIs living with HIV don’t even know it.

What is HIV/AIDS?

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a life-long virus that attacks cells of your body’s immune system. Over time, HIV reduces your body’s ability to fight off infections and diseases. If left untreated, HIV can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). AIDS is a deadly stage of infection where your body is too weak to fight disease.

How do you Protect Yourself?

HIV is spread through direct contact of certain body fluids from someone who has HIV. When spread through blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk, HIV is mainly spread through sexual activities and needle/syringe use.

  • Choose less risky sexual behavior
  • Use condoms consistently and correctly
  • Reduce your number of sexual partners
  • Use HIV medication, like PrEP, to reduce your risk
  • Get tested and treated for other STIs
  • Encourage HIV+ people to get tested and stay on HIV treatment
  • Educate yourself about HIV risk & how to reduce it

Take the Quiz: Are you a Stigmatizer?

Nearly 2/3 of Asians have never been tested for HIVSaving face can’t make you safe! Learn how to encourage healthy conversations and behaviors with nine multiple choice questions and video resources. Take the quiz now.

Did you know? APIs were significantly more likely to begin PrEP after referred to regimen by a clinic as opposed to a self-referral. Reduce the stigma and spread awareness today!

Find More Resources

Learn about HIV/AIDS through the Bayan Tree Project.

Learn more about PrEP at

#NQAPIA   #SavingFaceCantMakeYouSafe

NQAPIA and Roe v. Wade

This week marked the 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. The Supreme Court decision that made sure access to abortion services legal continues to be a key protection for women to make their own decisions about their health and their families. The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance holds values such as autonomy, access to reproductive services and health care, and empowerment for people of all genders and is proud to stand in solidarity with the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum in the fight for reproductive justice.

Many of the NQAPIA family have joined the NAPAWF #ImInThe78% campaign. We raise our voices, and our smart phones to proclaim our part in the 78% of Asian Americans who support some form of legal abortion.

From NQAPIA Co-Director for Programs Ben de Guzman’s selfie:

Ben Selfie NAPAWF Tumblr

To NQAPIA Board Co-Chair Joy Messinger with the NAPAWF-Chicago sisters:

NAPAWF Chicago Selfie


To the number of NQAPIA friends, homies, and allies:


Go to to see the real pics of ALL our friends taking part in the 78% and what you can do to join!


NCAPA Statement on Equality and Justice

The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), in recognition of National Coming Out Day, issued the following statement on LGBT Equality and Justice.  NCAPA is the nation’s leading coalition of national advocacy organizations serving Asian Americans, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities.  NQAPIA is proud to be a member of NCAPA and worked in solidarity with this coalition to issue this important statement.

To see the official statement and for more information about NCAPA, visit their web site.

NCAPA Statement on LGBT Equality and Justice

The Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community in the United States has always been made up of a diversity of people from different ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, religions, languages spoken, and more.  The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), as a coalition of organizations that represent these diverse constituencies and provides a national voice on policy issues and priorities, celebrates that diversity in all its forms, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT).

NCAPA recognizes the unique needs and concerns LGBT people and families have within the AANHPI community and many of its member organizations have played critical roles in advocating LGBT policy issues.  The Japanese American Citizens League was the first non-LGBT organization after the ACLU to support marriage equality in the state of Hawai’i, almost 10 years before the issue reached the mainland.

NCAPA remembers this history, and strongly affirms its support for members within the AANHPI community who are LGBT.  NCAPA members individually support a number of LGBT policy issues and the NCAPA 2012 Policy Platform includes policy positions on LGBT issues as well.  NCAPA knows the sting of discrimination based on religion, and supports religious freedom, and knows that LGBT people’s rights can and must be protected in ways that are consistent with freedom of religious expression.

NCAPA affirms the following then:

Marriage Equality and Family Recognition: NCAPA supports marriage equality for same-sex couples as a matter of equal protection under the law in the Fourteenth Amendment.  NCAPA opposes legislation or policy at the national, state, or local level that seeks to codify discrimination in the law by restricting access to marriage based on gender.  For states that do not currently accept same-sex marriage, alternatives such as domestic partnership will help keep couples and families together.

NCAPA supports LGBT families and the right for LGBT parents to raise their children with the same opportunities and equality as their straight counterparts.  Keeping families together is a core value of NCAPA’s work and it is important that LGBT families are included.  NCAPA supports inclusion of LGBT parents and same-sex couples in definitions of family with respect to policies and legislation.

Equal Treatment and Non-Discrimination: NCAPA endorses passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  NCAPA also supports measures that would prevent discrimination in public accommodations as well, and that people should not be able to be discriminated against based on sexual orientation or gender identity in any context.

Data Collection and Disaggregation:  NCAPA has long held that disaggregated data that is able to bring forward smaller sub-populations is critical for understanding the particular impacts of policies and legislation for affected communities.  This is true not only for specific ethnic communities within the AANHPI community, but for the LGBT community as well.  We know that data is sorely lacking for both AANHPI communities as well as for LGBT communities, and NCAPA supports data collection procedures that ensure that minority communities are counted.

Immigration:  Families should not be discriminated against in the immigration system because of their sexual orientation, or gender identity.  NCAPA supports policies and legislation such as the Uniting American Families Act that allows binational same-sex couples to participate in the spousal petition system in the same way as straight couples that are married.  Also, NCAPA calls for the development of enforceable detention standards, particularly for women, LGBT and other marginalized communities, that ensure access to appointed counsel, legal orientation programs, medical care, hormone therapy, and space to practice one’s religion.   NCAPA also supports provisions that would help LGBT people fleeing persecution have better access to asylum procedures, including extending the deadline to apply.  NCAPA’s support for improved procedures for employment visas, including a path to permanent residency, also recognizes the unique challenges LGBT workers face, such as when they come out of the closet while in the United States, but are faced with the prospect of going back in the closet when their visa expires.

Education:  NCAPA supports legislation and policy that promotes a safe environment for LGBT students in schools free from bullying and harassment, such as the Student Non-Discrimination Act, and the School Safety Improvement Act.  As NCAPA supports a more inclusive curriculum that tells our stories as AANHPI communities, we recognize the contributions of LGBT people (including those who are AANHPI) and support their inclusion in curricula as well.

Health:  NCAPA supports policies and legislation that are inclusive of LGBT people and their families in health care settings.  In a 2004 survey of LGBT AANHPIs, 23% of respondents named health care and another 35% named HIV/AIDS as among their top concerns.  The Affordable Care Act includes a number of provisions that expressly include and support LGBT families, such as prohibitions against discrimination against LGBT families and improved coverage for people living with HIV/AIDS.  NCAPA also supports improved data collection in health care settings, including collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity in clinical settings, which would allow health care providers to create a welcoming environment that is more responsive to LGBT health disparities.

NCAPA supports the Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus.  It is critical to stop bullying that targets any aspect of the AANHPI community, including those who are LGBT. Bullying is a mental health issue that can result in increased depression and suicide for LGBT individuals who are victims of taunting and hate crimes.  The lack of emotional safety in talking about their sexual orientation can also keep a person from addressing other mental health problems or related health issues such as HIV screening or Hepatitis screening.  This in turn compromises an individual’s ability to receive quality healthcare.

Housing and Economic Justice: NCAPA supports policies and legislation that address issues of housing discrimination for LGBT people and their families, including recent regulations that ensure equal access to housing in HUD programs regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. NCAPA also supports continued funding for HUD’s Office of HIV/AIDS Housing and the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) Program.