What are HIV and AIDS?

HIV is the virus that can lead to AIDS. HIV weakens the body’s ability to fight disease and infections. To become infected, something active has to happen to physically pass the virus from one person to another. HIV stands for Human Immuno-deficiency Virus. AIDS is a condition that results from HIV infection. When people with HIV develop AIDS, everyday infections, like thrush or pneumonia, may become life threatening illnesses. These illnesses are called Opportunistic Infections.

While HIV is a life threatening illness, drugs are available that can reduce HIV’s effect on the immune system, delay symptoms, prevent infections, and prolong life. AIDS is diagnosed when you have HIV and one or more Opportunistic Infections, which include:

  • PCP (a type of pneumonia or lung infection)
  • Toxoplasmosis (infection of the brain)
  • Thrush (yeast infection)
  • Herpes Simplex (viral infection)
  • Lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system)
  • Salmonella Septicemia (gastrointestinal bacteria)


Someone who has AIDS will have generally been living with HIV for many years and their immune system would be severely damaged. HIV weakens the immune system to the point where an Opportunistic Infection can lead to death.

There are several ways to become infected with HIV. Here’s an easy formula to help describe how the virus is transmitted:

HIV Positive Body Fluid + Direct Access to the Bloodstream + Risk Activity = Possible Infection with HIV

HIV+ Body Fluid

The body fluids that may put someone at risk for HIV infection are:

  • Blood (including menstrual blood)
  • Semen (including pre-cum)
  • Vaginal fluid
  • Breast milk

Direct Access to the Bloodstream

HIV must get into the blood stream. This may happen through:

  • Receptor cells (found in vagina, anus, tip of the penis)
  • Open cuts, tears and sores in the skin
  • Intravenous needles/syringes

Risk Activity

In order to be at risk for HIV infection, a person must be participating in an activity like:

  • Unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex
  • Sharing intravenous needles (for steroids, drugs, piercing, tattoos, etc)
  • Breast-feeding

If you’ve engaged in any combination of these risk activities, you may have put yourself at risk for HIV. You can get tested at the Bute Street Clinic here at QMUNITY (if you want, Lydia or Tash will come to the testing with you!)

(Adpated from YouthCo)