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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

LGBTQ API Athletes: Amazin LêThị

LGBTQ API Athletes: Amazin LêThị

Amazin LeThi Bodybuilder

Amazin Lethi Bodybuilder Photo Credit: Sent directly from her just for use in this article

Amazin LêThị was a Vietnamese professional bodybuilder and now does advocacy work with her organization the Amazin Lethi Foundation, promoting HIV/AIDS awareness and equality for LGBT youth. She grew up in Australia, where she said, as a teen, she was bullied for being Asian and, later on, for being part of the rainbow community. Because she was a transracial adoptee from Vietnam and brought up in a white household, she felt that she did not fit in well in any particular group. Throughout her teenage to young adult years, she said she had felt suicidal. It was difficult to pull through those times, but when she did, she was committed to make it so other youth today would be able to have people they can turn to for support.

Her drive for changing the sports scene is rooted in her own experience as a professional bodybuilder, where she was the only Asian in her community, as well as the only woman. Homophobic and transphobic behavior is common in sports, especially in locker room talk, said LêThị. Back then, she did not have any rainbow Asian role models to look up to and could not feel comfortable coming out at all. That is why, in her own work, she aims to be that role model for youth who are trying to figure out who they are and are feeling insecure about their identity.

Through sports, she hopes to create a safe place where Asian rainbow youth can have a support network. Being in a team helps people learn about themselves as individuals as well as who they are within a larger group. They get to express themselves through their body instead of verbally. She acknowledges the pressures that people in professional sports have where they cannot express their authentic self fully to the world because their career is on the line. NQAPIA is working with her to promote LGBT equality and API inclusion through sports. She will be speaking at NQAPIA’s 2018 National Conference in San Francisco in July.

Lethi prefers using the terms “queer” and “rainbow” to better represent the fluidity in people’s sexuality, so that people are not pressured to categorize themselves in specific boxes.

Learn more about Amazin LêThị on her website at, Twitter, and Facebook.

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

Share a Coffee with Actor Conrad Ricamora

Making our Communities Visible on National Television

On this Friday morning, instead of worrying on your way to work, hearing the news and quickly grabbing some coffee to-go, join Conrad Ricamora in slowing down, making coffee at home, and donating your $5 latte money to an organization who will protect your community.

Conrad, from ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder, donated his latte money to NQAPIA after learning more about our work and Trump’s staff picks. Will you support us, just like Conrad?

Coffee with Condor

Watch Conrad Ricamora talk about his donation to NQAPIA

Last year, Conrad received NQAPIA’s Community Catalyst Award for raising the visibility of LGBT Asians and educating millions about PrEP on national television. Balitang America talks with Conrad at the banquet:

Conrad Ricamora at the 2016 Community Catalyst Awards

Watch Conrad Ricamora receive the 2016 Community Catalyst Award

Tomorrow night, NQAPIA will honor another celebrity, Ongina from RuPaul’s Drag Race (Season 1) with the 2017 Community Catalyst Awards for raising awareness of API immigrants and people living with HIV.

NQAPIA Honors Ongina from RuPaul's Drag Race at the NYC Community Catalyst Dinner on Saturday, March 25, 2017 at Joy Luck Palace 98 Mott Street. Get your tickets at

If you cannot join, will you kindly make a donation, so someone else can attend and be with us in community during these difficult times?

Please push out this wonderful video, as our former honoree, as an effort to entice others to attend and support our work: Thank you!