There are many people living with HIV. Although there is no cure for HIV, people with HIV who get good medical care can live a long and healthy life. If you have a friend with HIV, just keep being a friend! That is what your friend needs most.

How Can I Learn About HIV?

You will be more comfortable talking to your friend about HIV and AIDS if you know the facts.

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the immune system. The immune system becomes weaker, making it harder for the body to fight off infections and some kinds of cancers.

AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) happens after someone has had HIV for many years. In AIDS, the immune system is severely weakened. Serious infections and health problems happen.

HIV spreads when infected blood or body fluids (such as semen or vaginal fluids) enter the body. This can happen:

  • during sex (especially anal sex and vaginal sex)
  • through sharing needles for injecting drugs or tattooing
  • by getting stuck with a needle with an infected person's blood on it

HIV also can pass from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.

How Can I Help?

Here are some things you can do to help your friend:

  • Don't tell anyone about your friend's HIV. A health condition like HIV is personal, private health information. Tell your friend that you will not break his or her trust by telling others.
  • Be there to talk about your friend's HIV if he or she wants to. It's OK to ask questions about living with HIV. But if your friend doesn't want to talk about it, move on to another topic.
  • Do things together that can reduce stress. For example, go for a walk, hang out with friends, or just do something together that you both enjoy.
  • Be a good influence on your friend. Avoid activities that can have bad health effects like smoking (including e-cigarettes), alcohol, and drugs.
  • If your friend has to miss school because of an appointment or illness, offer to bring homework to him or her.
  • If people say mean things about your friend's HIV, try to help them understand the facts about HIV. They may be acting this way because they don't know what happens to someone with HIV or how it is spread. If things get too mean, ask a teacher or other adult for help.

If your friend seems very sad or overwhelmed, ask if talking to a therapist might be helpful. If your friend seems interested, you can talk to your friend's parents together (if your friend is OK with it) or you can go with your friend to a local health clinic and ask for resources for helping someone with HIV/AIDS.

Ask if your friend would be interested in online resources, such as:

Do I Need to Worry About Getting HIV From My Friend?

You can't get HIV from the kind of casual contact you'd have with a friend, like sharing a glass, kissing on the cheek, hugging, or shaking hands.

You can get HIV by having sex (vaginal, oral, or anal), by sharing needles with someone.

Is My Friend Going to Get Sick?

It may not seem like your friend with HIV is sick at all. People with HIV can date, have sex, get married, and have families. Having HIV doesn't mean your friend will be sick or disabled by the virus. With the right medicines, people with HIV can stay healthy for a long time. 

What Else Should I Know?

The two most important things you can do for your friend are to be there for support in whatever way feels natural and to keep your friend's HIV diagnosis private. Just being there to hang out or eat lunch together can help keep things in perspective for everyone.

Life is for living. If friends know that you care about them for them — for the creative, smart, funny people they are — that can be the best thing you can do for a person living with any type of medical condition.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.

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