Island Sexual Health Society Be informed, not surprised!

HIV/AIDS symptoms, prevention and treatment

2006 June 29

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). This virus attacks the immune system and makes a person vulnerable to many different kinds of infections, diseases and cancers.

“Make an appointment”:/about/appointments/ at any of our clinics in Greater Victoria to have a confidential HIV/AIDS test, or to find out more. We also offer non-nominal (no name required) tests.

* “How HIV spreads”:#spread
* “HIV/AIDS prevention”:#prevent
* “HIV/AIDS symptoms”:#symptoms
* “Risks of untreated HIV/AIDS”:#risks
* “HIV tests and diagnosis”:#tests
* “HIV/AIDS treatment”:#treatment

For further reading, see our “links and other resources”:/resources/external/.

h3(#spread). How HIV spreads

Worldwide, millions of people are living with HIV and millions more have died of AIDS. In Canada, the incidence is rising.

HIV/AIDS is spread by sharing blood, sexual fluids and some bodily fluids.

* HIV can be spread through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with an infected partner, or by sharing sex toys
* HIV can be transmitted by blood to blood contact (sharing drug equipment; using unsterilized needles for tattoos, piercings or acupuncture; sharing sharp personal items such as razors, etc.)
* HIV can be spread by untested blood transfusions, organ transplants or artifical insemination. In Canada all donors have been screened for HIV since 1985.
* An infected mother can pass the virus to her baby during childbirth or breastfeeding.

h3(#prevent). HIV/AIDS prevention

To prevent HIV/AIDS, use good “sex safety”:/sex-safety/ skills including regular “infection screening”:/infections/.

* Use “condoms”:/sex-safety/using-condoms to reduce the risk of HIV/AIDS during vaginal and anal sex.
* Use condoms and “dental dams”:/sex-safety/dental-dams to prevent transmission during oral sex.
* Avoid sharing equipment for drugs, or other items that contact blood.
* “Make an appointment”:/about/appointments/ to get tested for HIV/AIDS.

h3(#symptoms). HIV/AIDS symptoms

* Many people have no symptoms at all for the first few years.
* When symptoms do appear, they can be varied and non-specific such as fatigue, weight loss, night sweats, swollen lymph nodes and constant “other” infections.

“Make an appointment”:/about/appointments/ to have an HIV test. We offer confidential, non-nominal testing in Greater Victoria, BC.

h3(#risks). Risks of HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS weakens the immune system, making a person vulnerable to rare infections (pneumonia) and cancers, which eventually cause death.

h3(#tests). HIV tests and diagnosis

HIV is diagnosed with a blood test called the HIV antibody test.

After being infected with HIV, there is a window period before the antibody will show up in this blood test. Within 3 months of initial infection, the HIV antibody is detectable in 97% of infected people and in 99% after 6 months.

“Make an appointment”:/about/appointments/ to have an HIV antibody test. We offer confidential, non-nominal testing in Greater Victoria, BC.

h3(#treatment). HIV/AIDS treatment

There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but there are treatments that can delay the progression of the disease. “Contact our clinics”:/about/contact/ for treatment resources in Victoria, or contact “AIDS Vancouver Island”:http://avi.org/.