What is HIV?
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV attacks specific cells in the immune system. Over time HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. When this happens, HIV infection leads to AIDS.
What are the symptoms of HIV?
Some people have flu-like symptoms when they first get infected (fever, sore throat or swollen glands). Many people have no symptoms at all.
How is HIV diagnosed?
The HIV test is a simple blood test. The test is available free of charge at our Sexual Health Clinic.
Types of testing: standard vs. rapid
- Standard testing: The majority of health care providers use this type of test. A tube of blood is collected in a clinic, hospital or physician’s office and sent to a medical laboratory. Test results are available in 1 to 2 weeks.
- Rapid testing: This test allows clients to receive their test and results in a single visit. The Health Unit’s Sexual Health Clinic does rapid testing.
Confidential testing vs. anonymous testing
- Confidential testing: If you provide your name when having an HIV test, the test and the results are kept confidential, not anonymous. They can be provided to your health care provider and recorded in your medical file.
- Anonymous testing: When having an anonymous HIV test you do not provide your name. Only you will know that you took the test and what the results are. Clinic staff assign a code to the test that you use to receive your results. The Sexual Health Clinic provides anonymous testing.
How is HIV spread?
Blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids and breast milk can transmit HIV. People can be exposed to these fluids during activities such as:
- unprotected sexual intercourse (vaginal, oral, or anal)
- sharing needles or equipment for injecting drugs
- using unsterilized needles for tattooing, skin piercing or acupuncture
- occupational exposure in health care settings
A pregnant woman can pass the infection to her unborn baby during pregnancy, at the time of delivery and through breastfeeding.
How is HIV treated?
Advances in treatment have helped people with HIV/AIDS live longer and improve their quality of life. The available treatments can keep HIV under control, but there is no cure.
How is HIV prevented?
- practise safe sex
- never share injection drug equipment
- if you are getting a tattoo, make sure that it is done by a professional who follows infection control precautions
- talk to your partner(s) about their STI status
To learn more about HIV/AIDS and other STIs (sexually transmitted infections), or to book an appointment call 705.522.9200 or toll-free at 1.866.522.9200.