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/
Learn more about the Ontario HIV Epidemiology and Surveillance Initiative: https://www.ohesi.ca/