HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks your body’s defence against disease and illness by infecting the very cells which would normally fight off infection. Anyone can be infected with HIV. You can have HIV without knowing it. You may not look or feel sick for years, but you can still pass the virus on to other people. Without treatment, HIV can progress and cause Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), the most advanced stage of infection.

AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) is a clinical diagnosis that indicates the most advanced stage of an HIV infection. At this point your immune system becomes too weak to fight off serious illnesses and can lead to life-threatening infections.


HIV is passed from one person to another through 5 body fluids:

  • blood
  • semen (including pre-cum)
  • rectal fluid
  • vaginal fluid
  • breast milk

An infection happens when one of these fluids that contain HIV enters the bloodstream through broken skin or the wet linings of the body (vagina, rectum, foreskin). HIV cannot pass through healthy, unbroken skin. It is not passed by hugging, kissing, toilet seats or insects. The most common ways HIV is passed from one person to another are:

  • through sex
  • by sharing injection equipment
  • It can also be passed from mother to child during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding.

Find more details on HIV transmission, testing and treatment at CATIE: http://www.catie.ca/en/basics/hiv-and-aids#better


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