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World AIDS Day

 Let’s talk about HIV/AIDS

World AIDS Day is held annually on December 1.  This is a day dedicated to commemorate those who have passed on and to raise awareness about AIDS and the global spread of the HIV virus. AIDS Awareness Week is November 24 to December 1 and Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week, December 1-5.

What is HIV?

HIV: Human Immunodeficiency Virus. When HIV has damaged the immune system, someone is said to have AIDS.

What is AIDS?

AIDS: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

The HIV virus is found in blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk of an infected person.

How is HIV transmitted?

·         Unprotected sex (vaginal, anal and to a lesser extent oral sex) with an infected person

·         Sharing contaminated syringes, needles or other sharp instruments

·         From mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breast feeding when the mother is al­ready HIV positive.

·         Blood transfusion with contaminated blood


**All these ways of transmitting HIV can be prevented.


How can I reduce the risk of contracting HIV?

·         Male and female condoms are highly effective in preventing HIV.  Use a condom correctly every time when having anal or vaginal penetrative sex.  Use a good lubricant with condoms to prevent breakage.

·         Never re-use needles or drug preparation equipment and never share needles with other people. Instead use a new sterile syringe from a reliable source. (ie a needle exchange program).

·         If you are HIV positive and pregnant, talk to your doctor about a cesarean birth.  A short treatment of anti-retroviral medication administered to the mother before birth and the child after birth can reduce the risk of transmission from mother to child.  If possible avoid breastfeeding.


Some additional facts about HIV/AIDS:

·         You cannot become infected by shaking someone’s hand, hugging someone, drinking out of the same glass or any other non sexual day to day contact.

·         There is no evidence that the HIV virus is spread through kissing.

·         Anyone can contract HIV by having unprotected sex with a person who has been diagnosed with the virus.

·         Even if an infected partner has an undetectable low level of the virus in their bloodstream, you are still at risk of contracting HIV.

·         There is no cure for HIV. It is true that there is anti retroviral medication for people who have been diagnosed as HIV positive.  However these medications are not a cure.  Once you start taking anti retroviral medication you will need to be on it for the rest of your life.  The pills are often very large and some of the side effects include nausea and vomiting. The HIV virus is very clever and quickly adapts to whatever medications are being taken, it tries to change itself through mutations so that these medications no longer work.  It is extremely important to take the medication every day at the right time, this makes it harder for the virus to adapt and become resistant.


People living with HIV and those vulnerable to HIV continue to face stigma and discrimination.  This stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV/AIDS is inhibiting people from accessing information, diagnosis, care, treatment and support.   

Join AIDS Saskatoon Thursday Dec. 1 for World AIDS Day, for a launch at the 601 outreach centre @ 1pm and a candlelight vigil at 6:30pm at St Thomas Wesley United Church. If you want to more about AIDS Saskatoon visit their website at www.aidssaskatoon.ca

Let’s all help raise awareness about the global spread of the HIV virus and commemorate those who have passed away from HIV/AIDS related illnesses. Wear your red ribbon, show your support. 

This information is adapted from UN AIDS website, if you would like more information about HIV/AIDS you can go to www.unaids.org.





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