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Get the Facts About HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C

What is HIV/AIDS?

  • HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus - a virus that weakens the immune system. The immune systems of people living with HIV may not allow them to fight off infections as well as people who do not have HIV (who are HIV negative).
  • AIDS stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome - an advanced form of the illness caused by HIV. Not all people living with HIV will develop AIDS.
  • HIV is mainly spread by having anal or vaginal sex (intercourse) with an infected person without using a condom, or by sharing needles.
  • Currently, there is no vaccine and no cure for HIV/AIDS.

There are five bodily fluids that can have enough HIV to infect another person:

  • Blood
  • Semen
  • Anal fluids/mucous
  • Vaginal fluids
  • Breast milk
For you to acquire HIV, one of these fluids must contain the HIV virus and directly enter your bloodstream through activities such as condomless sex, breast/chestfeeding (in the case of infants), and using substances via injection, among others. 

Looking for more information? Contact our Education team or book a presentation with us.

For additional information about HIV/AIDS in both English and French, please visit the website of Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange (CATIE) - Canada's source for HIV and hepatitis C information.

What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C (Hep C) is a chronic liver disease caused by the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis means “inflammation of the liver”, thus HCV causes inflammation and scarring of the liver.

Hepatitis C is only spread through blood. The blood of a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus must enter your blood stream for you to become infected. Currently, there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C is NOT spread through any other bodily fluids such as:

  • saliva
  • sweat
  • semen
  • vaginal fluids
  • urine
  • breast milk, etc.

Risk Activities for Getting Hepatitis C

High Risk:

  • Sharing drug-use equipment for injecting or snorting drugs such as syringes, needles, straws, pipes, cookers, filters, etc. that has the Hepatitis C virus on it.
  • Using tattoo and body piercing equipment that has not been sterilized, including tattoo ink.
  • Receiving a blood transfusion or blood products before 1992.
  • Getting an accidental needle stick injury with a needle that carries infected blood.

Low Risk:

  • Sharing personal hygiene items that could have blood on them such as razors, nail clippers, tooth brushes, etc.
  • Sexual activities.
  • Mother-to-child transmission.

No Risk:

  • Hugging and kissing.
  • Day-to-day contact with family or friends.
  • Using public washrooms.

Hep C Prevention:

  • Do not share equipment for drug snorting or injection.
  • Do not share personal items that may have tiny amounts of blood on them such as razors, toothbrushes, nail clippers, etc.
  • Discuss the fact that you have HCV with your sex partner(s).
  • Use a latex condom or dental dam when having sex, particularly if having sex with a woman who is on her period.
  • Clean blood spills with soap, water and disinfectant.
  • Bandage over cuts and sores until healed.
  • Tell people who come in contact with your blood that you have hepatitis C.
  • Do not donate blood, organs, etc.
  • Tattooing is safest in a professional studio with a sterilizer, sterile equipment and needles and new ink. If you’re in prison or doing it yourself, have your own tattoo gun and ink, and don’t share.

Quick Facts About Hepatitis C (HCV)

  • It is estimated that 250,000 people in Canada are living with HCV.
  • 3,200 - 5,000 individuals are newly infected with HCV each year.
  • Acute Hepatitis C is the first stage of infection.
  • Chronic Hepatitis C is when the virus lives in the body for more than six months. In some cases it may lead to cirrhosis (a condition in which healthy liver cells are replaced by scar tissue) or liver cancer, both of which affect the liver's ability to function.

For additional information about Hepatitis C in both English and French, please visit - Canada's source for Hepatitis C information.