HIV (or Human Immunodeficiency Virus) weakens your immune system, your body’s built-in defence against disease and illness.
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 HIV treatment, your immune system can become too weak to fight off serious illnesses. HIV can also damage other parts of your body. Eventually, you can become sick with life-threatening infections. This is the most serious stage of HIV infection, called AIDS (or Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome).
There is no vaccine to prevent HIV. There is no cure for HIV… but there is treatment. There is no cure for HIV, but with proper care and treatment, most people with HIV can avoid getting AIDS and can stay healthy for a long time. Anti-HIV drugs have to be taken every day. They cannot get rid of HIV but they can keep it under control.
For more on HIV treatments, please see:
HOW DOES HIV GET TRANSMITTED?
Only five body fluids can contain enough HIV to infect someone: blood, semen (including pre-cum), rectal fluid, vaginal fluid and breast milk. HIV can only get passed when one of these fluids from a person with HIV gets into the bloodstream of another person—through broken skin, the opening of the penis or the wet linings of the body, such as the vagina, rectum or foreskin.
HIV cannot pass through healthy, unbroken skin.
The two main ways that HIV can get passed between you and someone else are:
- - through unprotected sex (anal or vaginal sex without a condom
- - by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs (including steroids)
HIV can also be passed:
- by sharing needles or ink to get a tattoo
- by sharing needles or jewellery to get a body piercing
- by sharing acupuncture needles
- to a fetus or baby during pregnancy, birth or breast-feeding.
HIV cannot be passed by:
- - talking, shaking hands, working or eating with someone who has HIV
- - hugs or kisses
- - coughs or sneezes
- - swimming pools
- - toilet seats or water fountains
- - bed sheets or towels
- - forks, spoons, cups or food
- - insects or animals
For more on how HIV is transmitted, please visit CATIE’s How Transmission Occurs page.
Government of Canada HIV/AIDSGovernment of Canada HIV/AIDS