HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). HIV wears down the body's immune system over time and the person is less able to fight off infections. HIV is found in blood, semen (including pre-cum), vaginal fluids, rectal fluids, and breast milk of people living with HIV. It can be transmitted through sexual contact as well as contact with the blood of an infected person. HIV is transmitted through unprotected sex and/or by sharing needles (e.g. drugs, tattoos, body piercings, and acupuncture).

There are two preventative strategies for HIV negative people who may be at risk of HIV through a high risk exposure, these include:

  • PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis): The individual takes an oral pill once a day before coming into contact with HIV to reduce their risk of HIV infection. PrEP must be taken for at least 7 days to reach optimal levels of protection against HIV.
  • PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis): The individual takes an anti-HIV medication after coming into contact with HIV to reduce their risk of HIV infection. PEP must be started within 72 hours after HIV exposure and must be taken twice a day for 28 days.

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  • Any infection in the genital area may increase the risk of becoming infected with HIV. Practicing safer sex, by using latex or polyurethane condoms and/or dental dams for oral, anal or vaginal sex can reduce the risk of STIs.
  • Order FREE condoms & dental dams today at the Sex it Smart website
  • Want to get tested? Visit the Get Tested Why Not website
  • Call the AIDS & Sexual Health Info Line at 1-800-668-2437 if you have questions or need help.

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