Anyone can get HIV, regardless of age, sex, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity. There are five bodily fluids which have the potential of transmitting the virus:
It is only when one of these fluids enters the blood of somebody else that there is a risk of HIV transmission. Transmission can occur through: broken skin, penis opening, vagina, rectum, foreskin. The behaviours that are responsible for most HIV transmission are sex and sharing needles.
Without proper treatment, HIV can also be passed from a pregnant person to their baby during pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. However, with effective treatment it is likely that HIV positive parents will give birth to HIV negative babies.
Any fluids that were not mentioned above do not carry enough HIV to transmit the infection. HIV cannot be transmitted by: shaking hands, sharing food, hugging and kissing, coughs and sneezes, spit, insects, etc.
All Canadian blood products in Canada have been checked for HIV since 1985 and there has not been a single case of transmission through blood products since that time.
Condoms and lube
Using a condom correctly and consistently helps prevent HIV and STIs. Using lube can help prevent tears which can facilitate the transmission of HIV and STIs. When using condoms, make sure to use only water or silicone based lubricants. An oil based lubricant can cause the condom to break.
If somebody is living with HIV and on treatment, their viral load is suppressed, making it impossible for them to transmit HIV during sex. HIV treatment not only ensures somebody stays healthy, but it also prevents transmission.
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)
PrEP is a form of HIV prevention for those at higher risk of HIV, taken before a possible exposure to the virus. Essentially, PrEP is a pill that is taken everyday to prevent HIV for those who could benefit from additional prevention; it is 99% effective when taken everyday.
Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)
PEP, on the other hand, is a way to prevent HIV after a potential exposure to the virus. PEP is usually an emergency resource for those who have been in a situation where HIV may have been transmitted (condom breakage, sexual assault, needle-injuries). PEP is started within 72 hours of the exposure, but is most efficient when taken even sooner (i.e. as soon as possible). PEP must be taken daily for 28 days to be fully effective.
There are some types of sex that present a higher HIV risk than others. Oral sex poses little-to-no risk and masturbation poses no HIV risk, whereas receptive anal sex carries the highest risk. Avoiding sharing toys and cleaning your toys between use can also decrease the risk of HIV transmission .
Using new needles and safely disposing of needles
If you inject drugs, you may be at higher risk for HIV. In order to decrease your risk of transmission, you can use new needles every time you inject drugs and avoid sharing drug equipment (like cookers, filters, water, pipes, straws) by using your own equipment every time.
For a more in-depth look into HIV prevention methods, see our article on HIV Prevention.
This year, Freddie awarded $2,000 to one student from the LGBTQ2S+ community pursuing their education. After reviewing nearly 100 applications, our selection committee chose Rakhshan Kamran as the winner. Check out our interview with him!
COVID has resulted in many changes in social habits and safety practices, so patients have had questions about PrEP and COVID. Our team has compiled some answers for you below. Have a read!