HIV/AIDS (Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is a lifelong disease that is most commonly spread through unprotected oral, anal and vaginal sex.

There are two stages to this disease. The first stage is HIV which weakens the immune system of the person infected. The immune system has an important role in our bodies because it helps us fight off infections and viruses to keep us healthy. Sometimes, infections and viruses are too strong for our immune system to fight. HIV is one of these infections.

Once the body’s immune system has been considerably weakened, HIV develops into “full blown” AIDS.  If HIV develops into AIDS, the health of the person may deteriorate rapidly.  This is usually the case when the individual does not access medical care.

HIV care has come a long way in the last decade mainly with the help of antiretroviral medication.  The medication helps the immune system, and delays the progression of HIV to AIDS, providing a much longer life expectancy.  It is still a very serious infection.

Not everyone develops signs or symptoms of having been infected with HIV. But sometimes, between six weeks and three months, the body may begin to show signs. These symptoms may include fever, rash, muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes and glands (found behind your jaw and under your arms). Most people newly infected with HIV will not show any of these signs so get tested to make sure you’re not infected.

Protect yourself and others from HIV/AIDS by using condoms and dental dams every time you have sex. You can get tested for HIV by visiting your Community Health Nurse or Physician. The test is free and confidential. Tell your partner if you’ve been infected with HIV so they can get tested and, if they test positive, discuss options for treatment.