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Today marks the 35th year of World AIDS Day. Observed annually on December 1, it is a time to come together to reflect on the world's response to HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) and honor the lives of those lost to AIDS-related illnesses.

Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties is committed to supporting individuals at higher risk of contracting and/or living with HIV by fighting stigma and discrimination and working to limit the spread of new cases through education and testing.

Together, we can work toward ending the HIV epidemic through equitable access to HIV education, prevention, and treatment. 

What is HIV?

HIV is a virus that damages the immune system. If left untreated, it can cause someone to become very sick and can eventually lead to a final stage of the infection, called AIDS. In the United States, it is rare for someone with HIV to develop AIDS because taking HIV medications every day, as prescribed, does stop the progression of the infection.

HIV is most commonly spread through contact with semen, pre-ejaculate fluids, vaginal fluids, rectal fluids, blood and/or breastmilk — usually during unprotected acts of sex or by sharing injection equipment, such as needles. HIV can affect anybody regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation. Worldwide, approximately 1.5 million are diagnosed with HIV yearly, including over 32,000 new cases in the U.S. 

Get Tested

Most people who are infected with HIV may not have symptoms for years, which is why it is so important to get tested regularly. The only way to accurately know if a person has HIV is to get tested. 

It’s recommended for people who are having sexual contact to get tested for HIV at least once per year, even if they are in a monogamous committed relationship. For individuals engaging in activities that put them at higher risk of contracting HIV, such as men who have sex with men, people who engage in sex work, or people who use drugs intravenously with the use of needles, it is recommended they get tested every 3-6 months.

Testing for HIV can be as simple as a quick finger prick or a blood draw, and sometimes results can be ready in less than 30 minutes. Although there is no cure for HIV, people who are on treatment and continue to take their medication as prescribed can still live normal lives and do things like be in relationships, have sex, have children, etc.


In addition to regular testing, there are also medications that can prevent the spread to HIV. PrEP is a daily pill intended for people who are not living with HIV that can protect folks who might be more at risk of contracting the virus – they can talk to their healthcare provider to find out if PrEP is right for them.

There is also an emergency medication called PEP, which is taken within 72 hours of exposure to HIV to help reduce the risk of transmission. This can be obtained at any hospital emergency room or someone could call their healthcare provider for more information.


While there is currently no cure for HIV, there are treatments that can help a person stay healthy and lower their chances of spreading HIV to others. This is called "treatment as prevention” and works because it keeps a HIV person’s viral load down so low, it cannot be transmitted to another person. 

Getting and staying undetectable helps you stay healthy and means you won’t transmit HIV to a partner(s) through sex. Finding and receiving treatment keeps you, your partners, and your community healthy.

Planned Parenthood Services

People living with HIV can live healthy, fulfilling lives with treatment and support. Planned Parenthood continues our commitment to protect and expand HIV/AIDS health care and education.

Planned Parenthood provides services to help prevent HIV and support HIV-positive individuals and their partners including:

  • HIV Testing
  • HIV Testing Education
  • HIV Prevention and Referrals (PrEP and PEP)
  • HIV Case Management
  • Other HIV Services

Together we can stop the spread of HIV. Visit your local Planned Parenthood to get HIV testing, treatment, and education. To make an appointment, call 714-922-4100.