What is HIV?
HIV stands for:
HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, particularly, white blood cells called CD4+ T cells that are responsible for fighting off infections in the body. These cells are critical to the normal function of the human immune system. As they weaken, the body is left vulnerable to opportunistic infections with can result in a chronic, progressive illness.
What is AIDS?
AIDS stands for:
AIDS is an advanced stage that occurs if the HIV virus is left untreated (or if ARV medication protocol is not adhered to) causing the body’s immune system to weaken and become vulnerable to opportunistic infections.
Is HIV different from AIDS?
Yes, many people don’t really understand how HIV and AIDS are related, even though they hear these two words used together all the time. HIV is the virus that enters the body and AIDS is the medical condition that a person living with HIV may reach if their immune system is too weak to fight off infections. A person can have HIV and not have AIDS.
I heard there was a cure, is this true?
No, this is not true. HIV is treatable but not curable. There are medical treatments that maintains and strengthens a person’s immune system so that the virus doesn’t weaken it.
How do I know if I have HIV?
A person could be living with HIV for years and not experience any particular symptoms, everyone is different. The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested. Please visit the Toronto Public Health website here for a full list of testing sites. You do not always need to have OHIP coverage to get tested.
How is HIV transmitted?
HIV is not transmitted easily since the virus cannot survive outside the human body. The virus can only be transmitted through certain bodily fluids such as blood, breast milk and sexual fluids (including semen, pre-seminal fluid and vaginal fluid). Actions that involve these fluids are considered high risk such as unprotected sex (without a condom), blood transfusions (only in places where blood is not screened), during breastfeeding (if the mother is HIV positive) and sharing needles or syringes (since these provide access directly to the blood stream).
You cannot contract HIV through any other fluids such as saliva, sweat, tears, mucous or bodily waste.
Where can I get condoms?
You can get free condoms and lubricant at ASAAP and many other AIDS Service Organizations and sexual health clinics, just get in touch with us. You can also buy condoms at drug stores, sex stores and online. There is no age restriction but if you’re uncomfortable going to a store, contact us to access what you need in a safe space.
Condoms come in different thickness, sizes, and styles. It’s best to try out different brands and types until you find one that fits the best.
What is an HIV test?
The HIV test is a test that looks for HIV antibodies in blood. When a virus enters the body, antibodies are released and can be detected in the blood stream. HIV antibodies will appear in a blood test within three months after infection (also called the window period), so it is very important to get tested three months after you feel you were exposed.
Where can I get tested?
HIV testing is vital to prevention, treatment and care. Since HIV does not come with any particular symptoms, getting tested is the only way to be sure of your HIV status. Know that you have options for getting tested that allow for discretion and confidentiality.
Please visit Toronto Public Health here for a full list of anonymous and confidential testing sites.
What is the difference between anonymous testing and confidential testing?
Anonymous testing means you do not have to provide your name or other identification to get tested. Your test is coded with a number and cannot be traced back to you. This way no one will know your test result unless you decide to tell them. You can get tested anonymously at the Hassle Free Clinic and Women’s Health In Women’s Hand in Toronto.
Confidential testing means that the results of any HIV test performed will not be revealed to anybody except designated clinic staff and public health officials. This does not mean that your family, partner or community will find out. The record is only maintained by health officials.
Whether you want to have a confidential or an anonymous test is entirely up to you. If you need more information please get in touch with us.
I don’t have OHIP, is there anywhere I can go?
Hassle Free Clinic and Women’s Health In Women’s Hands provide services to those without status or OHIP. Also, in February 2013, Toronto became a Sanctuary City where undocumented migrants can access services regardless of immigration status.