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HIV 101

The first and foremost important thing is to practice safer sex, create boundaries to protect yourself & others, and communicate your concerns with your partner(s) ❤
So, what is it?

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. 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 with treatment. If someone living with HIV doesn’t get treatment, it can progress to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), the most serious stage of HIV. However, today, it's also quite possible to recover from AIDS with medical care and HIV treatment.

Then, how is it passed on? 🤨

HIV can only be passed on through 5 bodily fluids:

  1. blood

  2. breast milk / chest milk

  3. semen or pre-cum

  4. rectal fluids

  5. vaginal / front hole fluids.

It can also be passed during pregnancy, childbirth or breast/chest feeding. HIV cannot be passed through other fluids in our body like pee, spit/saliva or sweat. And it cannot be passed through skin-to-skin contact or casual contact such as hugging, kissing, or sharing utensils.

Are there any Advance treatments?

Yes, when a person living with HIV takes HIV treatment (a combination of medications known as Anti-Retroviral Therapy or ART) over time, it can reduce the amount of HIV in their body (viral load) to a level so low, that it can’t be detected in a blood test (this is called an undetectable viral load or viral suppression). When a person’s viral load is undetectable, it is impossible to pass on HIV through sex.

Pretty cool, isn’t it?

pictures of different emojis including a peach, eggplant, virus, needle, and finger pointing into an okay hand gesture

Image from

Now, onto some common medication used

1. PrEP

It stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. It’s like the birth control pill but for HIV. It’s a prescribed daily pill that contains a combination of two anti-HIV medications that people who are HIV-negative can take to prevent HIV transmission from happening.

In Canada, generic Truvada is used and has the anti-HIV meds: emtricitabine and tenofovir. PrEP is highly effective when taken every day.

2. PEP

It stands for Post-Exposure Prophylaxis. It’s like the plan B for HIV. It’s a pill containing a combination of three anti-HIV meds that people who are HIV-negative can take for 28 days (four weeks) to prevent HIV transmission from occurring if they think they’ve been exposed to HIV within the last 3 days (72 hours). For PEP to be effective, it must be taken every day for 28 days within 72 hours of exposure to HIV.

PEP is meant for a single exposure.

Whatever the treatment plan is, sticking to medication is the best way to keep a viral load down and be undetectable. 😎

How to support someone who has HIV? 💕
  1. Encourage your friends to get tested regularly and if comfortable, accompany them to the clinic.

  2. Create a safe, non-judgmental, and comfortable space for them, and listen to their concerns.

  3. Remember that they are the same person as before the diagnosis. They will still enjoy the same activities and should eventually expect to have the same hopes for the future.

  4. Help them take their medication as directed as it can be a new change for them. You can set up reminders on their phone or text them to remind them. This will ensure that HIV has a minimal impact on your lives.

Fight HIV, not people with HIV! Create a safe, non-judgmental, and welcoming environment! 2. do fun activities together! 3. Listen to their concerns! Image has pink background with pink, beige, and turquoise shapes

Where to find additional support or information?
  1. HIV 411 to find clinics, support groups, and community around your home.

  2. Nine Circles Community Health Centre- Culturally-appropriate advocacy, care, treatment, and support for people living with and affected by HIV.

  3. CATIE: Canada's source for HIV and hepatitis C information

Learn more:

About the Author

Naila (She/Her)

Hello everyone! My name is Naila Tariq . I am in my second year, majoring in Psychology. I look forward to having an amazing time with HU this year to create meaningful content that will help my peers in coping with unique challenges of these times.

In my free time, you can find me baking cookies with my sister, and getting cozy with Hot C in my hand (Weather does not matter!). Excited to see y’all!

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