What is it?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system. If left untreated, HIV can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome or AIDS. There is no cure for HIV, but with treatment, people with HIV can lead long and healthy lives.

How can you get it?

You can get HIV through vaginal or anal sex with a partner who has HIV (if your vagina or anus comes into contact with your partner’s sexual fluids). Sexual fluids include ejaculate, vaginal fluid, and anal fluid. You can also get HIV through non-sexual activities that put you in contact with someone else’s blood that has HIV, such as sharing needles like injection drug equipment or tattooing needles. HIV can also be spread from mother to child during pregnancy, labour, birth or through breastfeeding. If the mother is being treated for HIV, the chance of passing HIV onto the child is very low

How do you know if you have it?

Many people with HIV do not show signs after infection. Sometimes it can take years for the body to show signs of infection. If you do have signs, they may include:


Testing for HIV happens through a blood test. This can be done by drawing blood from your arm, or by pricking your finger to get a few drops of blood. Tests that use the finger-prick method are called rapid HIV tests and can provide results within minutes of being tested.


Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) is used to treat HIV and it usually includes taking a combination of three antiretroviral drugs daily. There is no cure for HIV, but people living with HIV on ART can live long and healthy lives.


You can reduce your risk of getting HIV by using barriers such as condoms when engaging in sexual activities and by not sharing needles. You and your partner can get tested before engaging in sexual activities or sharing needles to ensure neither of you has HIV.

PrEP and PEP

Did you know?

  • PrEP and PEP are covered by the Non-Insured Health Benefits Program?
  • If a person living with HIV on ART has an Undetectable viral load (meaning there is little HIV in their blood) for at least six months, the virus is Untransmittable (meaning you cannot give the disease to someone else). This is also known as U=U.
  • People with HIV and their partner(s) can lead safe and fulfilling sex lives.

Looking to get tested?

To know for sure if you have HIV, you need to get tested. We know that visiting a clinic can be a stressful and overwhelming process for some folks – click here to find a place to get tested near you. Visit our Services and Supports Near You page for clinics and organizations that offer culturally relevant and trauma informed services.

Find Testing Near You

Symptoms, Treatment and Resources

Click below to download NWAC’s HIV/AIDS Fact Sheet to access this information in a PDF format where you can find a full list of references:

HIV/AIDS Fact Sheet (405 KB)