HIV, HEP C, and Sexual Health Information

Below is an ongoing list of questions and answers on commonly asked questions in relation to HIV, HEP C, and sexual health! This is not an exhaustive list and you should consult your primary health care provider for more information!

HIV INFO

HIV is a virus that can infect or affect anyone. A person can have HIV without knowing it. Education, awareness, and testing are essential in preventing HIV infection and eliminating stigma.

Q. IS THERE A CURE FOR HIV?

A. No, there is no cure for HIV. There have been significant advances in the treatment of HIV. HIV is now considered a chronic disease. With proper treatment and support, people living with HIV can live a healthy lifespan.

Q. WHERE DID HIV COME FROM?

A. Until February 1999, scientists weren’t sure where HIV originated. In February 1999, it was reported that HIV had been traced back to a subspecies of chimpanzees in Africa.

Q. CAN I GET HIV FROM KISSING?

A. HIV is transmitted from an HIV-positive person to an HIV-negative person by the transfer of semen, vaginal fluid, anal fluid, breast milk, or blood. There is no risk of HIV transmission through wet or dry kissing without the presence of blood. There is a low risk of transmission through kissing if there is an exchange of blood.

Q. CAN I GET HIV FROM A MOSQUITO BITE?

A. There is no scientific evidence proving that HIV can be transmitted by an insect bite. HIV does not reproduce in insects, so the virus does not survive long in an insect.

Q. I AM HIV POSITIVE. WILL MY BABY HAVE HIV?

A. In recent years, it has been shown that the risk of vertical (mother-to-child) transmission is reduced to 2-3% by treatment with anti-HIV medications during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, intravenously during labour, and to the baby just after birth. HIV is present in breast milk, so it is recommended that HIV-positive mothers do not breast feed.

Q. HOW LONG DOES HIV LIVE OUTSIDE OF THE BODY?

A. HIV does not survive long outside of the body. HIV is not able to reproduce outside of the human body.
There are several factors, such as viral load, that can impact how long HIV will survive outside of the body but it will most likely die within minutes.

Q. IS HIV THE SAME AS AIDS?

A. HIV is the virus that can lead to AIDS. AIDS is a stage of HIV infection. Not everyone living with HIV has, or will, have AIDS.

HEP C INFO

Hepatitis C is a chronic liver disease. Sometimes it takes several years before people experience symptoms. During this time the virus can be passed along to others and the virus can be causing liver damage. Learn more about the virus to know the risks and more about living with Hepatitis C.

Q. WHAT IS HEPATITIS C?

A. Hepatitis C is a form of viral hepatitis spread through blood-to-blood contact.

Q. ISN'T THERE A VACCINE FOR HEPATITIS C?

A. No.  There is no vaccine to prevent Hepatitis C infection.  There are vaccines for other types of Hepatitis but they will not provide protection if exposed to Hepatitis C.

Q. ARE ALL FORMS OF HEPATITIS THE SAME?

A. Hepatitis is swelling or inflammation of the liver.  There are different forms of viral hepatitis that can cause various levels of liver damage.  Different forms of hepatitis are transmitted different ways, have different prevention, and different treatment.

Q. HOW LONG DOES HEPATITIS C LIVE OUTSIDE OF THE BODY?

A. Recent studies suggest that HCV may survive on environmental surfaces at room temperature at least 16 hours, but no longer than 4 days.

Q. IS THERE A CURE FOR HEPATITIS C?

A. There have been many advancements in Hepatitis C treatment.  The main goal of treatment is to lower the amount of virus in the system to undetectable and sustain this over a period of six months.  If this is achieved, the patient would be considered free of the Hepatitis C virus.  This, however, does not provide immunity to Hepatitis C re-infection if the person is exposed to the virus again.

Q. CAN I GET HEPATITIS C FROM HAVING SEX?

A. The risk of transmission through sex without a condom is generally low. The risk could increase if there is a chance of blood being present (ex. During menstruation, tiny cuts or tears during rougher forms of sex).

SEXUAL HEALTH INFO

There’s so much more to sexual health than just sex, it’s about taking care of you. It’s about emotional, social, and mental well-being so you can make informed decisions that are in your best interest. Incorporating regular testing into your routine will help you stay connected to the health care that’s right for you.

Q. WHY SHOULD YOU TEST?

A. Because you can’t treat the undiagnosed…

  • 21% of HIV positive Canadians don’t know that they’re HIV-positive. That’s 21% Canadians who aren’t on HIV treatment and are way more likely to transmit HIV to someone else.
  • While Hepatitis C is more commonly passed from one guy to another by sharing drug gear (like during PnP sessions), more and more guys have been getting Hepatitis C during sex.
  • If you’re someone living with HIV-positive, it’s important for you to know that guys who are HIV-positive are more at risk for Hepatitis C.
  • Syphilis is on the rise for guys who have sex with other guys. Like some other STIs, syphilis is curable.

 

Plus, testing is free for everyone (even if you’re not a permanent resident of Canada).

Q. HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU TEST?

A. Every person is different because it depends on the type of sex they’re having. If you’re someone who is more at risk, you should test every 3 months. If you’re someone who is less at risk, you should test every 12 months. Click here to way to find out how often you should test.

Q. WHERE CAN YOU GET TESTED?

A. There are testing clinics all across Simcoe-Muskoka that offer free testing for HIV and other STIs (even if you don’t have a health card or family doctor). The hours are different depending on which clinic you go to and some are drop-in while others require appointments. Click here for the details or call this toll free number: 1-877-721-7520.
Another option is to talk to your family doctor about your sex life and to ask to have you tested for HIV and other STIs. Not only can your family doctor see the bigger picture of your overall health, but they can help you remember to test regularly.

WANT
MORE?

NEED MORE INFORMATION?

Here at the Gilbert Centre, we are experts on a lot of things, but there are other experts and resources out there! If you need more information right away, check out our list of ever growing resources, programs, organizations, and websites for more information.