What is it?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus that causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Human Immunodeficiency Virus attacks your body’s immune system leaving it unable to fight certain infections. People with healthy immune systems can fight these infections off; people with Human Immunodeficiency Virus may not be able to. When a person has Human Immunodeficiency Virus and becomes sick from one or more of these infections, they have Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. A person with Human Immunodeficiency Virus may not develop Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome for many years, or they may never develop it.

How do you get it?

You can only get Human Immunodeficiency Virus by having the virus enter your bloodstream. The virus can be found in and transmitted through blood, semen, vaginal fluid or breast milk. You can get Human Immunodeficiency Virus by having unprotected sex (vaginal, anal or oral), by sharing needles or other drug use equipment (cookers, water, filters, etc.) by sharing razors or toothbrushes that have blood on them or by using unsterilized needles for tattooing, acupuncture or body piercings. If you are female you can pass the virus on to your baby during pregnancy or while breast feeding. Human Immunodeficiency Virus cannot be passed through casual contact such as hugging, kissing, shaking hands, sharing food or toilet seats.

How can you tell if you have it?

You can have Human Immunodeficiency Virus and not know it because you may have no symptoms for many years. You may develop a mild flu, two to four weeks after becoming infected. If you had risky behaviour as listed above, you many want to get tested. It is important to wait for 12 weeks after your last risky behaviour or the test may not be accurate. Remember, you could still pass on the virus to someone else without knowing you have it.

How do you get tested?

You can get a special blood test.

Can you treat it?

Though there is no cure for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, treatment has progressed dramatically. People who are infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus are living longer.

Source: Health Canada

Where can I get help?

Visit one of our Sexual Health Clinics or to speak confidentially with a Public Health Nurse call 519-271-7600 or toll-free at 1-877-271-7348 extension 779.