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What is HIV?

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the body’s white blood cells. Our white blood cells work to protect our bodies against illness and disease.  If left untreated, HIV can cause acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), the most advanced stage of HIV infection. 

How is it spread?

HIV can be spread by:

  • Blood
  • Semen
  • Pre-seminal fluid
  • Vaginal and Rectal fluids
  • Breast milk

HIV cannot be spread by:

  • Saliva, sweat, or tears 
  • Casual contact (handshakes, hugs, casual closed-mouth kissing) 
  • Sharing toilet seats
  • Dishes
  • Insects
  • The air
  • Sexual activities that do not involve the exchange of body fluid (mutual masturbation)


Who is most vulnerable?

  • People who are sexually active with one or multiple partners
  • People who share needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment 
  • People who have been diagnosed with or treated for another sexually transmitted disease
  • People who have exchanged sex for drugs or money


Early symptoms of HIV infection can include: 

  • Flu-like symptoms 
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Upset stomach
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands
  • Rash
  • Aches and pains in muscles and joints

It is important to understand that HIV can go without symptoms or be misdiagnosed. It is important to make HIV testing a part of your routine health evaluations. 

If HIV is left untreated symptoms can progress and include more symptoms like: 

  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • A cough that won’t go away
  • Night sweats
  • Mouth and skin problems
  • Frequent infections
  • Serious illnesses or diseases


Sexually Transmitted Infections  (STIs)

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) — are infections that are typically transmitted from person to person through blood, semen, vaginal, skin to skin contact,  and other bodily fluids.  For common STIs, effective treatment is available — especially in the early stages.


 Common STIs are 

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhoea
  • Genital herpes
  • Genital warts
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Hepatitis C (HCV)
  • Syphilis
  • Trichomoniasis


Who is most vulnerable?

STIs affect people of all backgrounds and economic levels. Half of all new infections are among young people 15 to 24 years old.

If you:

  • Have symptoms of an STI
  • Have a sexual partner who has symptoms of an STI
  • Are worried after having sex without a barrier 
  • Are pregnant with symptoms of an STI

It is possible to get some STIs through skin-to-skin contact, such as syphilis and herpes, without having sex.



Some STIs can have only mild or no symptoms. People with a vagina may have symptoms that can be mistaken for something else, such as a urinary tract infection or yeast infection. Getting tested for STIs is crucial to ensure treatment for the correct STI.

The symptoms of an STI can include:

  • Unusual discharge from the vagina, penis, or anus
  • Pain when peeing or during sex
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Rash over the rectum, hands, or feet
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding
  • Itchy genitals or anus
  • Blisters, and sores on the genitals,  oral or rectal areas
  • Sore, swollen lymph nodes, particularly in the groin but sometimes more widespread
  • Warts around your genitals or anus, warts in your mouth or throat, but this is very rare


  • Use condoms –  Insertive and external condoms are the best way to prevent STIs when you have sex.
  • Get tested – Making STI testing a part of your routine health screenings is a great way to keep yourself on top of your status.
  • Limit alcohol or drugsDrinking too much alcohol or using drugs can increase exposure to STIs.
  • Get vaccinated – There are vaccines to protect against HPV .
  • Communicate – Have an open and honest conversation with your partners about your status and their status. Getting tested together is another method to make sure you are protected. 


More Information



PrEP or pre-exposure prophylaxis is a pill that is taken on a daily basis to prevent getting HIV from sex or injection drug use. PrEP can stop HIV from spreading throughout your body.


Learn More