Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

  • Virus that causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
  • Attacks and seriously damages body’s immune system (cannot fight infections)

Signs and Symptoms/Complications

  • Weak immune system over time
  • Sick with different illnesses, cancers
  • AIDS


HIV is found in blood, semen, pre-semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk of infected people.  The virus is spread by:

  • Unprotected anal, vaginal or oral sex
  • Shared needles and other injecting equipment (E.g. spoons, water filters) and/or other drug equipment (E.g. crack pipes, straws)
  • Pregnancy, delivery, or breast milk (from infected mother to child)
  • Shared ear/body piercing and tattoo equipment

It takes six to twelve weeks for HIV to show up in the blood after someone is infected.

  • Have an HIV blood test six to twelve weeks after you think you were in contact with virus (may take up to six months for the virus to show up)


Some drugs are now being used to help fight HIV.  These new medications can help reduce and prevent symptoms as well as treat infections and prolong life.

Other lifestyle choices are important:

  • Good nutrition
  • Regular exercise
  • Getting enough sleep and rest
  • Avoiding cigarettes, drugs and alcohol
  • Getting regular medical follow up

These drugs are not a cure; however, people who are infected may remain healthy for years.


  • Practice safer sex; always use a condom during sexual intercourse
  • Never share needles or other equipment for injecting drugs or steroids.
  • Never share tools for snorting drugs (E.g. straws, rolled up bills, crack pipes)
  • Do not touch blood or body fluids without wearing gloves.
  • Ensure tattoo and body piercing businesses sterilize equipment and do not re-use needles

If you are HIV positive you must tell your partners prior to any sexual activity.

HIV is a reportable disease and must be reported to the Local Medical Officer of Health under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.    

This information is for general knowledge only and does not replace professional medical advice. For STI testing or more information, contact our confidential sexual health clinic at 519-753-4937 ext. 471.