HIV & AIDS
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus which an infected person can pass to a partner through unprotected vaginal or anal sex. Transmission through oral sex is possible but uncommon. The virus can also be passed through the sharing of needles, during pregnancy from mother to baby, and through breast-feeding.
HIV attacks the immune system, so an infected person is at higher risk of developing other infections. When people with HIV become symptomatic of these other infections, they are diagnosed with having AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Disease). However people with HIV may not develop AIDS for many years, and a variety of treatment options are available.
Free, anonymous HIV testing is available at the clinic by appointment. We provide both the Rapid Point of Care test, with results in a few minutes, as well as the standard blood test, with results in a week. It is recommended to wait 12 weeks after possible exposure to HIV in order to have accurate results.
People who test positive for HIV are encouraged to find a doctor who is experienced in treating people with HIV. A complete medical checkup will help determine how well the immune system is functioning and the level of the viral load (the amount of HIV present in the blood). Depending on the results, treatment options are discussed. Many doctors feel that the sooner an infected person begins treatment, the more likely it is that they will stay healthy. Treatment may also reduce the chance of passing the virus on to a sexual partner.
Other important factors in maintaining health are getting counselling and support, having a good diet and exercise plan, avoiding drugs and alcohol and getting rest.
Disclosing a positive HIV test result is a decision for the individual, however legally sex partners must be informed before having sex.
For more information on treatment options, check out CATIE. Legal information is available at HALCO (HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic).
The AIDS Committee of Toronto has many services for people living with HIV as well as information on safer sex and drug use.