5 Things Women Should Know About HIV/AIDS

From Reducing Exposure Risk to Understanding Treatment Options

Treatment options for HIV/AIDS have evolved over the past few decades. Unfortunately, however, there is still no cure for it. While HIV/AIDS incidence rates have declined slightly in the US in recent years, there is still risk for anyone who is sexually active. Women are at a higher risk of contracting an STD or STI due to anatomical and biological factors. That in mind, we encourage anyone who is sexually active to understand how HIV/AIDS is spread, treatment options, and how living with the disease can impact their lives.

  1. How it’s transmitted. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is commonly spread through bodily fluids. Examples of transmission include vaginal or anal intercourse with infected partners, shared needle intravenous drug use, and mother to fetal tranmission. Prenatal testing and treatment is critical to reducing the risk of transmission to an unborn child.
  2. How to reduce exposure. Talk to your partners beforehand to learn their status, and get tested regularly to know your own status. Knowing when to bring up sexual health with a new partner is a tricky topic. We recommend talking about it before engaging in any sexual activity. We like these great tips from Stigma Health on navigating the conversation. Do you all have any tips for when to bring up the conversation and how to navigate it? We’d love to hear it!  Limit your number of sex partners, and use a condom each time you have sex. If you think you might be at risk of exposure, talk to your healthcare provider about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a medication that lowers the chances of contracting HIV by 99%. The only foolproof way to avoid exposure is to abstain from sex, but by taking the right precautions you can drastically reduce the likelihood of you contracting the virus.
  3. What it does to the body. HIV weakens the body’s immune system by attacking the white blood cells. While HIV may cause flu-like symptoms at the initial onset, the virus can lay dormant in the body for years while eroding the body’s ability to respond to diseases and infection. If left untreated, HIV can eventually lead to AIDS which severely shortens a person’s lifespan. Living with HIV or AIDs can increase your susceptibility to contracting common infections (flu, common cold, COVID-19, etc) while making it harder to recover from them.
  4. Testing options and outcomes. Getting tested for HIV is nerve-wracking for a lot of people. If you have concerns about data privacy around your status, there are discrete testing options available. Oraquick Oral in-Home Saliva Test for HIV is the only FDA-approved at-home testing option that is listed on the CDC website. The test is mailed directly to your home where you can perform the self-assessment.If you test positive for HIV, work with your primary health care provider to get referrals for specialists who can devise a treatment plan that will reduce your viral load and protect your immune system. With new antiviral medications, people are able to lead normal lives while living with HIV – including having children who are HIV negative. The most important thing is to detect the virus and start a treatment plan as early as possible.
  5. Know that you are not alone. Living with a chronic disease can take a toll on your mental health, but there are numerous support groups and resources available. If you test positive for HIV, avoid trying to manage it alone. There are a number of groups and communities of people who are living with HIV/AIDS and supporting each other. POZ Community Forum is one of the longest-running online discussion communities for people living with HIV/AIDS, and myHIVTeam is a networking app that serves a similar purpose. Here is a comprehensive list of local HIV/AIDS support groups for women in each state if you prefer in person support.


  • Brandi Sinkfield

    Dr. Brandi, is a Board-Certified Anesthesiologist, who was inspired by her mother, a registered nurse who graduated with a degree in information technology. Through tough love and support from her father, extended family, and friends she attended Case Western Medical School and received her M.D. She completed residency training at Cleveland Clinic and dual fellowship training at Stanford Anesthesiology in Perioperative Management and Digital Health. Growing up she experienced the lack of transparency, shame and secrecy surrounding women’s health and body confidence driving her to imagine a pathway for her own daughter and other women to access information that empowers them and inspires confidence.