What is HIV?
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is caused by a virus that attacks the immune system. The virus is found in blood and other body fluids and is spread to others through sexual activities or through exposure to blood and body fluids of an infected person. HIV attacks and destroys cells in the immune system and can progress to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).
What are the symptoms of HIV?
Many people who have HIV have no symptoms and do not know they are infected. They can still pass their infection to others. Symptoms may develop shortly after being infected with the virus and can include fever, loss of appetite, fatigue, sore throat, swollen glands and night sweats.
How is HIV diagnosed?
The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested. The HIV test is a simple blood test. All types of tests listed below are available free of charge at our Sexual Health Clinic.
Standard testing vs. rapid testing
- 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.
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
- sharing equipment for snorting drugs
- using unsterilized needles and ink 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?
HIV is lifelong and there is no cure, but there are treatments which can reduce the amount of virus in the body and keep the immune system healthy and reduce the risk of passing the infection to others.
How is HIV prevented?
- use a new condom every time you have sex
- do not share sex toys
- never share needles or other equipment to inject drugs
- 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 sexually transmitted infection (STI) status
- never share any snorting equipment such as bills, straws, pipes
To learn more about HIV/AIDS and other STIs, or to book an appointment call 705.522.9200 or toll-free at 1.866.522.9200.
What is Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U)?
Public Health Sudbury & Districts endorses the U=U anti-stigma messaging. This campaign promotes scientific evidence that when a person living with HIV takes antiretroviral therapy medications consistently as prescribed and maintains a confirmed suppressed viral load, there is effectively no risk of their passing the infection on to their sex partners.
It is important to keep using condoms. Maintaining an undetectable viral load does not prevent the transmission of other sexually transmitted infections. U=U messaging relates to the sexual transmission of HIV and cannot be applied to breastfeeding/chestfeeding or injection drug use.
Learn more about U=U.