About HIV

HIV - the human immunodeficiency virus - is a life-long, episodic illness for which there is no cure. The virus can be transmitted when:

  • someone engages in high-risk activities with an HIV positive person, primarily during barrier-free vaginal or anal sex (i.e., sex without a condom)
  • when people share needles or other drug paraphernalia that has come into contact with HIV-infected blood

While you may be exposed to HIV in these ways, there needs to be enough of the virus present for transmission to occur.

Once someone is infected with HIV, the virus begins to attack healthy cells in the blood, which weakens the person’s immune system. When enough cells have been killed and the person’s ability to fight off other illnesses and infections is severely threatened, he or she will be diagnosed with AIDS. HIV positive people can be re-infected with other strains of the virus, which further weakens the HIV positive person’s immune system.

Adapted from information provided by Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care: http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/programs/hivaids/

The HIV Epidemic in Ontario

The HIV epidemic in Ontario continues to grow. HIV affects some communities more than others. Communities most affected by HIV/AIDS are:

  • gay and bisexual men
  • Ontarians from Africa and the Caribbean
  • people who inject drugs
  • Indigenous Peoples
  • women who are represented in the above groups or engage in high-risk activities with them (i.e. share needles or other drug equipment and/or engage in barrier-free sexual activity).

As of 2011, there were an estimated 30,000 people living with HIV and/or AIDS in Ontario with 1,400 new infections reported that same year. While treatment has made it possible for people to live longer with HIV, there is still no cure. An estimated 9,670 people living with HIV and/or AIDS have died since the onset of the epidemic.

Ontario’s approach to HIV includes prevention, education, testing, treatment, support services and research.

Adapted from information provided by Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care: http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/programs/hivaids/