Mark World AIDS Day by learning something new about HIV
Healthy U is a student group of trained volunteers dedicated to educating fellow students on important health-related matters. This article was prepared by a Healthy U student volunteer.
December 1 is World AIDS Day, an international event dedicated to raising awareness about HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and its impacts. World AIDS Day is also an opportunity to show support for people living with HIV and to remember those who have passed away from an AIDS-related illness. This World AIDS Day, we hope you learn something new about HIV!
HIV is spread by five types of bodily fluids: blood, semen/pre-ejaculatory fluid, vaginal fluids, rectal fluids, and breast milk/chest milk. The virus can be passed on through sexual activity, through sharing needles while using drugs, and sometimes through pregnancy, childbirth or breast/chest-feeding. It cannot be passed through fluids such as urine, saliva, or sweat. It also cannot be passed through skin-to-skin contact or casual contact such as hugging, kidding, or sharing utensils.
It’s important to practice safer sex, create boundaries to protect yourself and others, and communicate your concerns with your partners, including about sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Today, people can manage HIV with medical treatment through a combination of medications known as Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART). Treatment can reduce the viral load to such low levels that it is no longer detected in testing. When a person’s viral load is undetectable, HIV cannot be passed on through sex.
HIV-negative individuals who are at higher risk for acquiring HIV can take Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) proactively to prevent transmission. It’s recognized as the birth control pill equivalent for HIV. Generic Truvada is used in Canada and is highly effective when taken daily.
HIV-negative individuals who suspect that they’ve been exposed to HIV within the last 72 hours can take Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP). It’s seen as the Plan B equivalent for HIV, and is meant for a single exposure events.
Consult a health care provider to find the best treatment for you. Regardless of your treatment plan, keeping up to date with your medications is the best way to keep your viral load low.
SUPPORTING SOMEONE WHO HAS HIV
There are a number of ways to support people living with HIV or dealing with a possible exposure.
- Encourage your friends to get tested regularly and if they’re comfortable, accompany them to the clinic.
- Provide a safe and judgement-free space for them, and listen to their concerns.
- If they test positive, remember that they are the same person as before the diagnosis. They will still enjoy the same aspects of life and have the same hopes for the future.
- Help them take their medication as directed as it can be a major change for them. You can help them set up reminders on their phone or reach out to remind them.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AND SUPPORT
- Learn more about World AIDS Day and get accurate info about HIV from CATIE
- HIV 411 can help you find clinics and support groups around your home.
- Nine Circles Community Health Centre provides culturally-appropriate care, treatment, support, and advocacy for people living with and affected by HIV.
- Sunshine House (Kali Shiva AIDS Services) provides non-medical support and services such as harm reduction, social and income support, education, HIV prevention and testing, and volunteer development.
- The Manitoba Harm Reduction Network delivers prevention and health promotion workshops on harm reduction and safer drug use.