HIV Basics

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that weakens the immune system, which is what helps our bodies fight infection. People living with HIV are able to live healthy lives when they have access to medical care and treatment. Getting tested for HIV is the only way to know if you have the virus.

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a medical diagnosis that is different from HIV. It is the most advanced stage of HIV infection when the damage to a person’s immune system leaves them susceptible to serious illnesses. People living with HIV who are receiving regular HIV-related care are unlikely to develop AIDS.

HIV-negative people can only get HIV if an HIV-positive body fluid (e.g. blood, breast milk, semen, or fluid from the vagina or rectum) comes in contact with the wet linings of the mouth, nose, vagina, rectum or penis or bloodstream. Body fluids come into contact with these linings during sex or through blood-to-blood contact such as through injection drug use. HIV can also be transmitted through breastfeeding and, if no medical precautions are taken, during childbirth.

HIV cannot be transmitted through saliva, urine, tears, sweat, sharing a kitchen or a washroom, kissing, hugging, handshakes or other casual contact.


Public Health Ministry of Ontario United Way Trillium Foundation Guelph Community Foundation