What is HIV?

What is HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV takes over cells in the immune system to make more copies of itself and weakens the immune system. HIV is not the same thing as AIDS.

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How is it transmitted?

HIV is only passed through specific fluids

HIV passes through blood, semen and pre-cum, vaginal and anal fluid, and breast milk. When one of these fluids in a person living with HIV has contact with a tear in the mucus-membrane, the opening to the penis, or the wet linings of the body (vagina, rectum, and foreskin), HIV may be passed to another person. HIV is mainly passed two ways; through sex and sharing needles.

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Get an HIV Self-Test at Getakit by the AIDS Network

How can you prevent HIV transmission?

Ways to prevent HIV

HIV and sex: When you are having sex, it is helpful to try and use water or silicone-based lube and condoms.

HIV and drug use: If you use drugs, try not to share equipment (such as pipes, needles, etc). It is recommended to use new stuff every time and dispose of it properly (e.g. sharps containers). You can get new supplies through The Van, and at TAN. It’s also important to try and get tested regularly to know your status.

HIV and pregnancy/ childbirth: If HIV positive, it is best to start and stay on proper treatment. If the amount of virus in your body is low enough and you are getting treatment, you can prevent passing HIV on to your child.

Treatment: If your partner has been receiving consistent treatment, they may have a low viral load, which means that the amount of HIV in the body is undetectable. U=U: Undetectable= Untransmissable.

You can also prevent HIV through a combination of medicines called PrEP and PEP

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HIV Testing

An untreated HIV infection takes a long time to become noticeable

The only way to be certain of your HIV status is to be tested.

People who are on PrEP are tested every 3 months; however, if a person is not on PrEP, a good testing timeline is to be tested 3 weeks after a possible exposure with follow-up testing 6 weeks after the 3rd week test, and final confirmatory testing at 12 weeks (3 months). People at higher risk but who have not knowingly engaged in higher-risk activities should also consider testing annually.

HIV tests can detect an HIV infection as early as three weeks after exposure; however, it can take up to 12 weeks for the test to be able to detect the infection.

Many testing options include the option to remain anonymous, whereby a person’s case is assigned a number and no identifying information is taken; only that person is aware of the test’s results or that a test was done at all.

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How is it treated?

ART (anti-retroviral therapy)

HIV is treated through different medications that are prescribed by a doctor, that need to be taken at the same time every day. These are a combination of 3-in-one (or more) medications called ART (anti-retroviral therapy).

Single tablet treatments for HIV contain medications from different classes of drugs. Over the past number of years, researchers have discovered that combining different classes of drugs resulted in lower rates of the virus becoming resistant to treatment and had better results over the long term. Talk to your doctor about treatment options.

More Information

what is HIV?

what is HIV? HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV takes over cells in the immune system [...]

Ways to prevent HIV Transmission

HIV and sex: When you are having sex, there are many ways to prevent the transmission of HIV, [...]

How is HIV Transmitted

stop the spread! how is HIV passed on? HIV is only passed through specific fluids: blood, semen [...]

HIV Testing

An untreated HIV infection takes a long time to become noticeable (sometimes up to 10 years without [...]