What does it mean to be HIV positive?
When you are HIV positive it means you have antibodies to HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and therefore you have the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). This does not mean you have AIDS now.
Can I give HIV to someone else?
Yes. People who are HIV positive can pass the virus on to other people, but only in certain ways. HIV is in your blood, semen, vaginal fluid or breast milk. Other people can get HIV from you if your blood, semen or vaginal fluid or breast milk gets into their body.
HIV is spread through:
- sharing needles, syringes and drug equipment (including piercing and tattooing)
- anal sex
- vaginal sex
- oral sex
- sharing sex toys
HIV is not passed by insect bites, hugging, coughing, using swimming pools or sharing food. Urine, feces, tears and saliva have a small amount of HIV in them but it is not enough to infect someone unless blood is present in these fluids. Also, any sexual activity causing damage to tissues (fingering, fisting) can increase transmission risk because it may allow the virus to enter the blood more easily.
What About My Sex Life?
Any sex act that does not pass blood, semen or vaginal fluid is safer sex. Some safer sex activities are: masturbation, petting, massage, rubbing, hugging and kissing and having oral, anal or vaginal sex with a condom/latex barrier every time.
You still need to protect yourself from HIV because getting the virus again or getting any other sexually transmitted infection can make you sick more quickly.
It is important to tell your partner that you are HIV positive. You could be held legally responsible if a current or future partner becomes infected. Be aware of and practice safer sex.
- For anal sex, use extra-strength lubricated condoms and add lots of water-based lubricant.
- For vaginal intercourse, use lubricated condoms. There are non-latex female condoms made of polyurethane that are also effective. Extra water-based lubricant may help to prevent condom breakage.
- For oral sex on a man use a non-lubricated condom on his penis as extra protection.
- For oral sex on a woman, use a condom cut in half or a square piece of latex called a dam to put over her vaginal opening.
- For rimming, use latex barriers.
- If you take part in sexual activities where blood is present, protect yourself from exposure to the blood.
Barriers are an important part of safer sex. Remember that if the condom breaks your partner can then get HIV. A water-based lubricant such as K-Y jelly or Astroglide on the outside of the condom may help to prevent the condom from breaking.
How Can I Stay Healthy?
It is important to see a doctor or a clinic that specializes in caring for persons with HIV. People who are HIV positive can increase their chances of staying well if they have a healthy lifestyle - eat nutritious foods, get plenty of sleep, exercise, reduce stress and avoid exposure to all infectious diseases. Reduce the amount of alcohol, tobacco or drugs you use.
Your doctor can take regular blood tests to check your immune system so treatment can be started as needed. There are various medications available that can keep you healthy longer. It is also advised you have:
- a tuberculosis (TB) test
- a vaccine to prevent pneumonia (pneumovax)
- a vaccine to prevent Hepatitis A and B (free at the Health Unit).
Whom Should I Tell That I Have HIV?
All of your past sexual partners should be told so they can get counselling and be tested. It is also important to tell your current and future partners so they can make their decision. If you have shared needles, syringes or drug equipment with anyone, they should also be informed.
Inform your doctor and other health care providers.
You may want to tell your family and friends that you have HIV. They may be a support for you. The decision is up to you! Before you tell someone that you have HIV, it may help to talk to your doctor or counsellor. They can help you to decide whom you want to tell and how you want to tell them.
You do not have to tell your boss or people you work with that you have HIV. Under the Human Rights Act you cannot be fired for being HIV positive.
What about pregnancy?
If you or your partner want to have a baby, talk to your doctor about this before trying to get pregnant. If you are pregnant, discuss antiviral medications with your doctor. Taking these medications can reduce the chance of the baby being infected. HIV can be passed on to your baby during pregnancy, childbirth or in breast milk.
- Practice safer sex.
- Do not share needles/syringes/drug equipment. If you do share needles, clean them with bleach every time before you use them.
- Tell new sexual or needle sharing partners that you have HIV.
- Clean up spills of blood by:
- putting on latex gloves
- cleaning up the spill first with paper towel
- washing the area with soap and water.
- wiping the surface with a freshly made solution of 1 teaspoon bleach and 2 cups water
- leave this solution on the area for at least 10 minutes before cleaning it up. This will kill any germs left on the surface.
- wipe the surface and rinse with tap water
- place paper towels and gloves in the garbage
- wash your hands thoroughly
- Dispose of articles stained with blood (e.g. tampons, dental floss, bandages, etc.) by putting them in 2 plastic bags into the garbage.
- Do not prepare food or touch others if you have bleeding or oozing cuts and sores on your hands. Cuts and sores should be covered at all times.
- Do not donate blood, semen or body organs. If you have an organ donor card or sticker throw it away. Do not share razors, toothbrushes or anything that might have blood on it.
- Avoid activities that cut the skin (electrolysis, tattooing, ear/body piercing or acupuncture) to decrease your chances of getting other infections and passing HIV to anyone else.
For More Information call:
HIV/AIDS Regional Services Kingston, Leeds and Grenville 1-613-545-3698
AIDS and Sexual Health Infoline 1-800-668-2437