Understanding HIV/AIDS

What is HIV?

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that spreads from person to person through body fluids. The virus attacks your body’s natural defence system (the immune system).

How does someone get HIV?

People are most often infected with HIV through sexual intercourse or through shared intranasal or injectable drug use with shared equipment (needles, syringes, straws, drug preparation equipment). HIV can also be passed from a mother to a child during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

How does HIV become AIDS?

If left untreated, HIV weakens the person’s immune system to the point that it can no longer fight off serious infections. The risk of certain types of cancer can also increase. When a person becomes sick with these infections or these types of cancer, they are said to have “acquired immunodeficiency syndrome” or AIDS.

Is there a cure for HIV?

There is currently no cure for HIV, but medication can control the virus. Anti-HIV medication allows a person living with HIV to enjoy a long and healthy life—in many cases, as long as someone who doesn’t live with HIV. If medication is taken properly, it also lessens the risks of passing the virus along to others.


"I've just been diagnosed with HIV. What do I do now?"