BY MICHELLE SMITH
World Aids Day is December 1, 2015, but there is a growing concern about the ability to talk about HIV and Aids within our community. This is a topic that should be taught and learned by all. With Charlie Sheen “Coming Out” about his HIV Diagnosis, as your health advocate I wanted to go over some facts.
We know now that anyone can be infected with HIV, no matter your age, sex, race, ethnic origin or who you have sex with.
DID YOU KNOW? That more than 75% of HIV diagnoses in Ontario’s Black community are attributed to heterosexual transmission. HIV incidences have been stable or increasing in Canadians exposed to HIV through heterosexual sex since 2008. According to 2011 national HIV estimates, 34% of HIV-positive people whose infection is attributable to a heterosexual exposure remain undiagnosed. That is why it is so important that you get tested, know your status and always use protection – even for heterosexual sex. –
HIV is a virus that can make you sick. HIV (or Human Immunodeficiency Virus) weakens your immune system, your body’s built-in defence against disease and illness.
Anyone can be infected with HIV. You can have HIV without knowing it. You may not look or feel sick for years, but you can still pass the virus on to other people.
Without HIV treatment, your immune system can become too weak to fight off serious illnesses. HIV can also damage other parts of your body. Eventually, you can become sick with life-threatening infections. This is the most serious stage of HIV infection, called AIDS (or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
There is no vaccine to prevent HIV. There is no cure for HIV, but with proper care and treatment, most people with HIV can avoid getting AIDS and can stay healthy for a long time. Anti-HIV drugs have to be taken every day. They cannot get rid of HIV but they can keep it under control.
DID YOU KNOW? That only five body fluids can contain enough HIV to infect someone: blood, semen (including pre-cum), rectal fluid, vaginal fluid and breast milk.
HIV can only be passed when one of these fluids from a person with HIV gets into the bloodstream of another person—through broken skin, the opening of the penis or the wet linings of the body, such as the vagina, rectum or foreskin. HIV cannot pass through healthy, unbroken skin.
The two main ways that HIV can be passed between you and someone else are:
- through unprotected sex (anal or vaginal sex without a condom)
- by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs (including steroids)
HIV can also be passed by sharing needles or tattoo ink, sharing needs or body piercing jewellery or to a fetus or baby during pregnancy, birth or breast feeding.
HIV cannot be passed by talking, shaking hands, working or eating with someone who has HIV, hugs or kisses, coughs or sneezes, swimming pools, toilet seats or water fountains, bed sheets or towels, forks, spoons, cups or food, insects or animals.
HIV can be passed during unprotected sex. This means by vaginal or anal sex without a condom, oral sex without a condom or dental dam (a piece of latex used to cover the vulva or anus) or sharing sex toys. Oral sex is not as risky as vaginal or anal sex, but it’s not completely safe.
Protect yourself and your partner(s) from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). You can have sex with little or no risk of passing on or getting HIV. This is called safe sex. Safe sex also helps protect you and your partner(s) from other STI’s, such as gonorrhea and syphilis.
People can have HIV or other STI’s without knowing it because these infections often do not cause symptoms. You could have HIV or another STI and not know it. Also, don’t assume that your partner knows whether they have HIV or any other STI. The only way to know for sure is to be tested.
To practise safer sex…
- Use a latex or polyurethane condom correctly every time you have vaginal or anal sex.
- Use only water-based or silicone-based lubricants. (Oil-based lubricants can make latex condoms break.)
- Get tested for STI’s regularly. Having an STI increases your risk of getting and passing on HIV.
- Avoid sharing sex toys and if you do, cover each one with a new condom before each use. It is also important to clean your toys between vaginal and anal use.
- Use a condom or dental dam every time you have oral sex.
- Choose forms of sexual stimulation that pose little or no risk for HIV, like masturbation or sensual massage.
A Snapshot of HIV/AIDS in Toronto
- Every day, two Torontonians are newly infected with HIV
- More than 1 in 4 new HIV diagnoses in Toronto are among young people under 30
- 65% of new infections in Toronto occur in men who have sex with men
- Women represent 1 in 5 new HIV diagnoses in Toronto
This has been watching out for your health. Remember you are the most important part of your health care team