HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is an infection that is transferred through certain bodily fluids. It attacks your immune system leaving your body weak and vulnerable to other infections. There is no cure for HIV but with treatment you can live a long, healthy life.
If untreated, it can develop into a more fatal stage of the disease called AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). It’s very important to seek treatment if you have HIV.
How do you get it?
Anyone, at any age, of any ethnic background can get HIV. There are still a lot of misunderstandings about how you can get HIV.
You can get HIV by:
- Having unprotected sex (vaginal, anal and oral sex, and by sharing sex toys)
- Sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs
- Sharing needles or ink to get a tattoo
- Sharing needles or jewelry to get a body piercing
- Sharing acupuncture needles
As a baby, you can get it from your mother:
- During pregnancy
- At birth
- Through breastfeeding
You cannot get HIV by:
- Talking, shaking hands, working or eating with someone who has HIV
- Hugs or kisses
- Coughs or sneezes
- Swimming in pools
- Toilet seats or water fountains
- Bed sheets or towels
- Forks, spoons, cups or food
- Being stung or bitten by insects or animals
Is HIV preventable?
Yes it is. There is a good chance you won’t get it if you:
- Practice safe sex and use contraception
- Don’t inject drugs or share needles
You can also reduce the risk of spreading HIV if you get tested once a year (if you don’t practice safe sex) or by knowing your sexual partner’s status.
Where can I get tested for HIV?
Most HIV tests are done by a family doctor but if you prefer to have an anonymous test you can visit a Sexual Health Clinic instead. “Anonymous testing” is done without giving your name, while testing at your doctor’s office, or “nominal or name-based testing” will require registering your name. In both cases, the test is confidential and the results will only be given to you.
I don’t have OHIP. Can I still get the test done?
Yes! If you visit a Community Health Centre (CHC) you can request to get a “rapid test” or a “point of care (POC)” test for free. Rapid tests are conducted by pricking your finger to draw blood and the results are instant.
Do I have to ask my parents first to have a test?
No, but you do have to give consent to have the test done.
Keep reading Do I have to tell others I have HIV/AIDS? for when you should disclose your status.