HIV / AIDS
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) results in the destruction of cells that are crucial to our immune system function. Over time, if left untreated, this can progress into Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
How would I get it?
- Spread through unprotected oral, vaginal and anal sex with an infected partner
- Sharing of drug or steroid use equipment (needles, snorting, inhaling, or injecting paraphernalia), and unprofessional tattooing
- It may also be passed from an infected mother to infant during birth, or through breastfeeding
What kind of symptoms could I have if I am infected?
- Often people will have very mild or no symptoms at all when they are initially infected
- Others may experience mild flu-like symptoms (muscle or joint aches, rash, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, headaches, ulcers, weight loss, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea)
- Symptoms may appear shortly after you’ve been infected and then disappear, and you may not have symptoms for a long time
- The average length of time for untreated HIV to develop into AIDS is about 10 years
How do I prevent this?
- Condoms and dental dams
- Use your own equipment/needles for drug and steroid use
- PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis): a daily pill that helps prevent HIV transmission
- PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis): a 4 week treatment that could prevent HIV transmission if you think you’ve been exposed within 72 hours
Both PrEP and PEP are available by prescription through our clinic.
How do I get tested?
- A blood test; expect results to come back in 1-2 weeks – please note there can be a 3 month window period, meaning if you were exposed in the last 3 months, your result may not be accurate and should be repeated once out of the window period.
- Rapid anonymous testing is available through the Thunder Bay District Health Unit – call (807) 625-5900 for more information
What if I test positive?
- We will provide you with appropriate counselling and arrange a referral to a specialist for antiretroviral treatment and monitoring
- This infection will cause serious health problems, if untreated
- HIV is a reportable infection – meaning someone from Public Health may contact you for further information and you are required to notify sexual partners. Should you prefer to remain anonymous, Public Health can assist by notifying any or all partners.
How do I know it’s gone?
- There is no cure for HIV, however it is very manageable. HIV positive people are living long and healthy lives on antiretroviral treatment.
If you are HIV positive, taking your medication, and maintaining an undetectable viral load, you are unable to transmit the virus to others through drug use or sex. It is important you adhere to your daily medication and get regular viral load testing to ensure you remain undetectable.
Undetectable viral load does not mean you are cured. If you stop taking your medication, the virus will begin to replicate and you will once again be detectable.
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