HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)
- There are approximately 71 300 Canadians living with HIV
- HIV a human virus, it can’t be transmitted to/from animals or from surfaces
- HIV attacks your immune system (your body’s ability to fight infection and protect itself)
- HIV is a virus. Viruses are very tiny and reproduce by tricking other cells into reproducing for them. This kills the host cell. HIV attacks your white blood cells (CD4), and since your white blood cells are a major part of your immune system, that’s why people start to feel sick.
- You can have HIV and not know it. Testing is the only way to know for sure.
- HIV often has no symptoms, but you can still transmit HIV to other people.
- HIV is a chronic illness. There is no cure for HIV but there is treatment. This makes it easier for people to stay healthy with HIV.
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)
- AIDS is the most serious stage of an HIV infection
- You must have an HIV infection to have AIDS, but you might have HIV and not have AIDS
- In Canada, you are diagnosed with AIDS if you have BOTH a) a “high viral load” (a particular number determined through a blood test) and b) an opportunistic infection (like pneumonia)
- HIV can be managed and AIDS delayed through medication, healthy diet, exercise, and healthy living.
For transmission to occur, someone’s fluids (one of these 5) need to mix with someone else’s fluid (one of these 5). And at least one of the people needs to have HIV. This sounds a bit squishy, so let’s think in terms of activities:
- In Canada, the most common way HIV is transmitted is through unprotected vaginal/frontal sex and sharing needles
- Condoms act as barriers that prevent fluids from mixing. If the fluids can’t mix, transmission is unlikely.
- If everyone uses their own needles, in hospitals or at home, transmission can’t occur.
Mother to Child Transmission (Vertical Transmission)
- Vertical Transmission is very rare in Canada and much more common in areas with less access to health care services
- Its is very easy for HIV positive parents to have a safe and healthy pregnancy without transmitting HIV
- Anyone who is pregnant is offered an HIV test during their pre-natal tests, so someone who is expecting usually finds out very early on if they have HIV and can make decisions about their pregnancy and their body accordingly.
- Transmission can occur in utero, during labour, and through breastfeeding
- Transmission can be prevented by taking medications to reduce the virus in your blood, C-section, and breastfeeding alternatives (formula, milk donors)
Sexually Transmitted Infections in New Brunswick:
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, there are 400 People Living with HIV in New Brunswick. However, when people don’t feel comfortable being tested in their home areas, they may choose to get tested outside of New Brunswick, so those numbers would not be captured by the Public Health Agency of Canada. We estimate that there could be as many as 600 People Living with HIV in New Brunswick. This chart shows a low number of new HIV infections, but if people were tested out of province, they would not show up in the chart.
Because of the circumstances we live in, some populations may be more vulnerable to HIV than others, including youth, women, aboriginal/First Nations people, people in prison, gay/bisexual/two-spirited men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM), people who inject drugs, and newcomers to Canada. Having less access to prevention, education, support, and testing makes you more vulnerable to HIV, Hepatitis C, and other sexually transmitted or blood-borne infections (STBBIs).
Chlamydia is considered Outbreak Status in New Brunswick. Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection which:
- Chlamydia can be passed through oral, vaginal/frontal, or anal sex.
- Chlamydia’s symptoms include painful urination but 30% of people have no symptoms
- Regardless of symptoms, if left untreated, Chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and sterility (permanent)
- Chlamydia is easily cleared up with antibiotics which require a prescription (and therefore testing)
- Chlamydia frequently tested via a swab or a urine analysis
- Using condoms and/or dental dams can help prevent the spread of Chlamydia
Gonorrhea is considered Outbreak Status in New Brunswick.
- Gonorrhea can be passed through oral, vaginal/frontal, or anal sex
- Gonorrhea is easily cleared up with antibiotics which require a prescription (and therefore testing)
- Gonorrhea is frequently tested via a swab or a urine analysis
- Using condoms and/or dental dams can help prevent the spread of Gonorrhoea
Syphilis was considered Outbreak Status in New Brunswick recently.
- Syphilis can be passed through oral, vaginal/frontal, or anal sex.
- Syphilis symptoms begin as a small non-painful sore, after which symptoms disappear and eventually lead to brain degeneration
- Syphilis is easily cleared up with antibiotics which require a prescription (and therefore testing)
- Syphilis is tested via a blood test
- Using condoms and/or dental dams can help prevent the spread of Syphilis
There are approximately 250 000 Canadians living with Hepatitis C
- Hepatitis C (Hep C) is transmitted through blood-to-blood contact
- Hep C affects the liver and causes cirrhosis (hardening) of the liver, stopping it from cleaning our blood properly
- You can have Hep C for many years and have no symptoms (only a blood test can tell you!)
- There is no vaccine for Hep C (only Hep A and B)
- There are lots of reasons people come in contact with sharp objects, including: injecting/snorting drugs, needles in a hospital, insulin, B-12 shots, tattoos, piercings, manicures/pedicures, acupuncture, self-harm, and shaving. All of these come in contact with blood, but by not sharing, or by only using sterile equipment, we can prevent the spread of Hep C.
- Some people can clear the virus on their own. Most can with medication. Hep C treatment can take up to a year.
Unlike HIV, Hep C can live for days to weeks on a surface. You can prevent the spread of Hep C by:
- Not sharing needles, being careful if you work with needles.
- Asking your tattoo/piercing/manicure artists how they keep you safe. Look for brand new disposable equipment (needles and nail files) and an autoclave for metal reusable equipment (nail clippers).
- Not sharing personal grooming equipment that might come in contact with blood (nail clippers, razors, toothbrushes). Just because you can’t see blood, doesn’t mean it isn’t there!
- Dispose of all needles in a sharps container. They look like this: