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. No, there are different forms of hepatitis that can cause various levels of liver damage. Hepatitis is swelling or inflammation of the liver. 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, up to 2 weeks in some cases. HCV commonly lives outside of the body for up to 4 days. HCV can live in the inside of a syringe for up to 68 days.

Q. IS THERE A CURE FOR HEPATITIS C?

A. Yes, but also no. There have been many advancements in Hepatitis C treatment.  The main goal of treatment is to eliminate the virus in the system 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. Yes, although 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).

Q. HOW CAN I GET HEPATITIS C?

A. You can get HCV from sharing needles and other drug injecting equipment like cookers, and filters. As well, if you share straws and other items to snort drugs, you can get HCV from that. Also, if you use share tattoo, and piercing equipment or use an unlicensed tattoo or piercer.

Q. HOW CAN I FIND OUT IF I HAVE HEPATITIS C?

A. You can talk to your family doctor about getting a test for HCV. The test is done by a blood test and can take a few days to come back.

HARM REDUCTION INFO

Harm reduction are policies, procedures, and programs which aim to reduce the harm associated with substance use. Harm reduction engages the whole person in problem solving, and what actions they want to take to reduce the harm from substance use. It is also a range of practical strategies formed around client centred goals, and non-judgement.

Q. DOES HARM REDUCTION ENCOURAGE DRUG USE?

A. harm reduction doesn’t encourage nor discourage substance use, but remains agnostic about it. The principles of harm reduction recognize that substance use can’t be stopped by discouraging use, but works with each person to minimize any harm from their substance use.

Q. WHY IS HARM REDUCTION NEEDED?

A. Not everyone wants to stop using, or can’t stop using while they work on their health. As well, harm reduction keeps folks alive by reducing their risk of overdose and risk of hepatitis C infection.

Q. WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF HARM REDUCTION?

A. Harm reduction is providing new injection or smoking gear, giving naloxone, and even suggesting people drink more water when they party!

Q. WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE ABOUT HARM REDUCTION?

A. Check out Catie’s website for more information: www.catie.ca/en/prevention/substance-use.

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.