HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is an infection that spreads via direct contact with certain body fluids from a person with HIV who has a detectable viral load. Blood, semen and pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk can all transmit the disease. For transmission to occur, the HIV in these fluids must get into the bloodstream of an HIV-negative person through a mucous membrane; open cuts or sores; or by direct injection.

HIV destroys white blood cells, which are key to the immune system or the body’s natural ability to fight disease. If left untreated, HIV develops into AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), a stage of the illness in which the patient has a very weak immune system that makes them more susceptible to life compromising illnesses.

There is no cure for HIV. However, HIV treatment does a good job of suppressing the virus, slowing or stopping disease progression. With the proper treatment, a person can achieve an undetectable viral load. Once undetectable, research has shown that the disease cannot be transmitted to others.

Who is at risk?

The following groups have an increased risk of becoming infected with HIV: Men who have sex with men, transwomen who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, people who exchange sex for drugs or money, people disproportionately exposed to racism, particularly those who are foreign-born Black, Black/African American, and Latinx, and people between the ages of 25 and 29 years old.

You can learn more by reviewing the CDC fact sheet on STDs and HIV.

Healthcare providers and facilities must report AIDS and HIV cases to the Health Department within three working days.

There are two ways to report an infection:


  • Mail the Confidential HIV/AIDS Case Report Form to Washington State Department of Health, Assessment Unit, PO Box 47838, Olympia, WA 98504-7838.
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