hiv 101

📣 HIV is treatable, preventable, and NOT transmittable with effective treatment. 📣

Louder for the people in the back!

A lot of advancements have been made since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 80s, and while there’s still no cure for HIV, there are highly effective treatment and prevention options available today.
People living with HIV are living healthy lives and can live just as long as people who are HIV-negative, if they get tested and treated early. But there’s still lots of stigma and misconception about HIV. We’re here to debunk them for you!

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What’s the Tea on HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It’s a virus that infects the body’s CD4 cells (a type of white blood cell), weakening your immune system and making it more difficult for you to stay healthy. Your immune system is what protects you from illnesses and diseases. HIV makes it harder for the body to take care of itself and can make it easier for you to get sick if you don’t go on treatment.

If someone living with HIV doesn’t get treatment, it can progress to AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome), the most serious stage of HIV. AIDS occurs when your body’s immune system is so depleted that it can develop life-serious infections that the body can’t fight off. Thanks to medication and advancements in science, AIDS is far less common in Canada today and people living with HIV on effective treatment can have biological children and condomless sex without passing HIV on to their children or sexual partners! More on that here. Today, it's also quite possible to recover from AIDS with medical care and HIV treatment.

So, how is HIV passed on?

HIV can only be
passed on through
5 bodily fluids
Vaginal Fluid
Breast Milk
Rectal Fluid
HIV can only be passed on through 5 bodily fluids: (1) blood, (2) breast milk / chest milk, (3) semen/pre-cum, (4) rectal fluids, and (5) vaginal or front hole fluids. HIV cannot be passed through other fluids in our body like pee, spit/saliva or sweat. And HIV cannot be passed through skin-to-skin contact or casual contact such as hugging, kissing, or sharing utensils.


Sex is one of the more frequent ways people can become HIV-positive. Some kinds of sex make it more likely for HIV to be passed on, like anal sex (especially if you’re bottoming, the receptive partner). That’s because the tissue inside of our ass is soft and can tear easily, especially if we aren’t using condoms and lube (lots of it!). HIV can also be passed through vaginal or frontal sex, especially if forms of protection are not used.
Pulling out during sex is not effective in preventing HIV because HIV can still be passed on through cum or pre-cum, and vaginal or rectal fluid from the receptive partner. It’s important to know about all the kinds of prevention methods you can use to practice safer sex. Other types of sex, like oral/blow jobs aren’t likely to pass HIV—but you can still get other STIs. That’s why it’s important to get tested regularly! Hand jobs, kissing, hugging, touching, and cuddling won’t put you at risk for HIV.


Another way HIV is passed on is through injection drugs, including shared needles, cookers, ink wells, tattoo equipment, or any other exposure with needles that are unsterilized or being shared. If you’re injecting drugs, getting a tattoo, or doing anything else that involves needles, always make sure that the needle has never been used before. The golden rule is: everything new every single time.


HIV can also be passed on during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding/chestfeeding. While it’s standard practice to have HIV screening during pregnancy, anyone who is pregnant or planning a pregnancy should get tested for HIV as early as possible. The sooner you know your status, the sooner you can begin treatment. When a pregnant person living with HIV is on treatment, the risk of passing HIV on to the baby reduces significantly.

Know Your Status

It’s possible to have HIV without knowing it. Anyone can have HIV, regardless of their sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, or age. The only way to know your status is to get tested. Click here to learn more about HIV testing.

How does HIV treatment work?

HIV treatment is called Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART). For most people living with HIV, ART consists of taking one pill a day containing a combination of medications that combat the different stages of HIV.

ART is highly effective because it controls the virus in your body and reduces the amount of HIV (viral load) in your blood. This means that your immune system can strengthen again.  

While ART cannot cure HIV, if taken consistently as prescribed, the medications can keep your viral load very low. ART can make your viral load so low that a blood test can’t even detect it (called an undetectable viral load or viral suppression).

❗📣 It’s been scientifically proven that when someone living with HIV has an undetectable viral load, they can NOT pass HIV onto their sexual partner(s)! ❗📣

Look how far we’ve come with science! Learn more about U=U here.
Treatment as Prevention

When someone living with HIV is not taking ART, it gives the HIV a chance to multiply rapidly in their body which can weaken their immune system. It's important to get tested and have conversations with a healthcare professional about your best treatment options in order to prevent you from getting more sick.  

Getting and keeping an undetectable viral load (or staying virally suppressed) is the best way to stay healthy and protect others.  

Being undetectable can’t protect you against other STIs, so it’s best if you’re up-to-date on all the prevention methods at your disposal. And make sure you get tested regularly as part of your sexual health routine, and make it a habit to talk to your partner(s) about sexual health, especially when you have new sexual partner(s). #CommunicationIsKey

HIV 101 Quiz

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