HIV is the virus that attacks the body's immune system, which protects us against disease. A weaker immune system means our body doesn't have the same ability to fight infections and we are more vulnerable to viruses.
1. HIV Awareness
The fear of stigma causes people to be reluctant about accessing HIV testing, treatment and care, and makes it more difficult for people who are living with HIV to come to terms with their diagnosis.
HIV is different now. Testing is easier. Prevention and treatment are better. Share the word and help end HIV.
If you are HIV positive, it is better for your health if you are diagnosed and start treatment early. Many people who are diagnosed early and take their medication can live healthy lives.
Talk, Test, Support
HIV is Different Now.
Watch more stories
In the following powerful videos, Saskatchewan people who have a close connection to HIV challenge the HIV stigma and encourage people to get tested and access treatment and support.
- Watch Priscilla Joseph - Making a Difference
- Watch Jake Lachance - Dare to Care
- Watch Susanne Nasewich - Dignity and Respect
- Watch Ezra James - Challenge HIV Stigma
- Watch Dr. Stuart Skinner talk about how HIV positive people who are in treatment can have much healthier, longer lives
To learn more about how stigma can negatively impact those affected by HIV and how it can be addressed, visit the Be in the Know website.
2. How HIV can spread
- Sexual contact (unprotected vaginal, anal and oral).
- Blood contact (sharing of drug using, tattoo, piercing, or acupuncture equipment).
- Pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding (a woman with HIV may pass it on to her child without proper treatment).
HIV doesn't spread by everyday contact with people such as hugging, shaking hands or eating meals prepared by people infected with HIV. You cannot get the virus from telephones, toilet seats, swimming pools, hot tubs, water fountains, or by sharing glasses or dishes.
Rumours are circulating linking the COVID-19 vaccines to HIV. There is no clinical evidence linking COVID-19 vaccines and HIV. Global experts have dismissed these claims as completely false.
HIV can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) if not treated. There is no cure for HIV, but medication can treat it. When treated, people living with HIV can have the same healthy lives, relationships and children as people without HIV.
3. Symptoms of HIV
Some of the symptoms of HIV infection or AIDS are:
- Persistent fever or night sweats;
- Extreme fatigue;
- Unexplained weight loss;
- Infections in the mouth or throat; and
- Swollen lymph glands.
These symptoms may also indicate a simple infection not related to HIV. See your doctor for advice.
4. HIV Prevention
Knowing if you have HIV is the most powerful thing you can do in reducing the spread of HIV.
Anyone can become infected with HIV regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, race or ethnic origin.
HIV is preventable. The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested. It is a simple blood test.
The Government of Saskatchewan has made HIV self-test kits available, free of charge, at select public health clinics, pharmacies and community based organizations across the province.
Support and services are available. For more information, contact:
- a local public health office;
- your local sexual health or family planning clinic;
- your local HIV/AIDS organization;
- your doctor or primary health care provider; or
- a community health centre.
To find the location nearest to you, contact HealthLine at 811.
The Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange (CATIE) is Canada's leading source for HIV and hepatitis C information. See CATIE's website for the most up-to-date information regarding HIV prevention.
Harm Reduction Programs
Harm Reduction Programs are part of a comprehensive public health disease prevention strategy to reduce the spread of HIV, HCV, and other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections.
Providing supplies to people who use drugs is one of the simplest, most effective means to reduce the spread of these diseases. The distribution of supplies is intended to reduce the sharing of drug use equipment and encourage safer sexual practices. Harm Reduction Programs also serve as an important means of connecting with clients and engaging them in care.
To find a harm reduction program, go to: Saskatchewan Harm Reduction Services
5. Living with HIV
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and taking the prescribed medication are important for anyone who has tested positive for HIV or is showing symptoms of AIDS.
There are steps you can take to maintain a healthy immune system, slow HIV progression, and delay the onset of AIDS.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle:
- Avoid or reduce smoking, excessive use of alcohol or recreational drugs;
- Exercise regularly;
- Maintain a balanced diet;
- Get enough rest; and
- Maintain a strong support network of family and friends.
See a doctor regularly to monitor your health. Your doctor will decide if and when you need treatment. If you notice any change in your health, contact your doctor.
How to prevent transmission of HIV
- Clean small blood spills with a mixture of household bleach and water (1 part bleach to 10 parts water).
- Always practice safer sex.
- If you are a person who injects drugs, don't share any drug use equipment such as needles or syringes, or rinse solutions.
Disclosing your HIV status to sexual or drug partners
The Saskatchewan Public Health Act requires that past and present partners of people infected with HIV/AIDS be told about their possible exposure to HIV.
You can choose to notify your partners yourself or you can work with your physician, public health staff, or the medical health officer to notify your partners. Your name will not be disclosed when the partner notification is handled by the physician, public health staff, or medical health officer.
Although it may be difficult to disclose your HIV status, it is in your and your partner's best interests to share this information. This will help to take appropriate precautions together.
Your partner might need to have a physical examination and undergo some tests, including an HIV antibody test. Your physician can discuss the implications of this test with you and your partner together.
Share information on HIV/AIDS with your partner so they can also become educated about it.