Once someone becomes infected with HIV, they have it for life. That’s why it’s important to know how people get HIV/AIDS, what information is false, how you can reduce your risk of exposure and infection, and what symptoms look like.

South Dakota Department of Health

Office of Disease Prevention Services - 605-773-3737 — (1-800-592-1861 in South Dakota only)

NOTE: Since HIV is spread primarily through sexual practices or by sharing needles, prevention messages on this site may address these topics. HIV prevention materials funded by CDC must be approved by local program review panels. However, the materials may be considered controversial by some viewers.


HIV/AIDS is transmitted through a variety of bodily fluids, including blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk. Some of the most common ways people become infected with HIV are from:

  • Unprotected sexual contact (anal, vaginal, or oral) with an HIV-infected person
  • Sharing needles and syringes - injectable drug use
  • Receiving blood transfusions or organs between January 1977 and June 1985 (blood and organs received after June 1985 are considered safe from HIV)
  • Mother to baby before, during, or after birth (HIV may be transmitted through breast milk if the infant is nursed by an HIV-infected mother)
  • Occupation in health care or a laboratory setting

Transmission Misconceptions

Though people contract HIV/AIDS in a variety of ways, not all bodily fluids transmit the infection. People will NOT become infected through saliva, tears, urine, or stools. Examples of ways people will NOT become infected include:

  • Being bitten by mosquitoes or other bugs
  • Being bitten by an animal
  • Eating food handled, prepared, or served by someone with HIV infection
  • Sharing toilets, telephones, or clothes
  • Sharing forks, spoons, knives, or drinking glasses
  • Touching, hugging, or kissing a person with an HIV infection
  • Attending school, participating in sports, church, shopping malls, or other public places with HIV-infected people

Reducing Risk of Exposure

  • Abstain from having sexual intercourse. Your risk of exposure to HIV through sexual contact becomes zero when you are not exposed to potentially infectious blood, semen, or vaginal secretions.
  • Develop a monogamous relationship with mutual fidelity. Persons who are not infected and are in a monogamous (one sex partner) relationship with mutual fidelity (no additional partners) have no risk of exposure to HIV through sex (provided neither shares IV drug needles).
  • Avoid sex with persons at risk for getting HIV, persons who have tested positive for HIV, or those with AIDS.
  • The use of condoms can reduce your risk of any sexually transmitted disease, but they are NO guarantee. Brand name latex is best.
  • Don’t abuse IV drugs. Don’t shoot drugs, if you do, don’t share needles or syringes. Many diseases are spread this way (Hepatitis).

If you think you may have been exposed to HIV, get counseled and tested. Refer to the listing below for free and confidential counseling, testing, referral, and information.

Symptoms of HIV & Testing

The only way to know whether you are infected with HIV is to be tested for it. Once HIV enters the body, the body starts to produce antibodies—substances the immune system creates after infection. These antibodies can be discovered with testing.

1 in 7 HIV-infected people in the United States don’t know that they are infected, according to the CDC.

No one can rely on symptoms alone because many people who have HIV do not show symptoms for years if at all. Someone can look and feel healthy but can still be infected.

If someone does experience symptoms, they appear much like flu symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Sore Throat
  • Swollen Lymph Nodes
  • Rash
  • Muscle Aches
  • Night Sweats
  • Mouth Ulcers
  • Chills
  • Fatigue

Learn more about symptoms from the CDC.

Learn More About HIV

Many places offer HIV testing: doctors' offices, hospitals, and sites specifically set up to provide HIV testing.

There are many different kinds of HIV tests, including rapid tests and home test kits. All HIV tests approved by the US government are effective at finding HIV. See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Q&A on testing for more information.

Find a Testing Site

Locate a testing site by visiting the CDC HIV testing database or by calling CDC-INFO (formerly the CDC National AIDS Hotline) at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) 24 Hours/Day. You do not have to give any personal information about yourself to use these services to find a testing site.

Who to Contact

HIV/AIDS Prevention/Surveillance Program

South Dakota AIDS Hotline
Department of Health 1-800-592-1861 (in-state)

CDC Hotline
You may also contact a private physician to inquire about obtaining HIV counseling and testing; usually, a fee is involved.