Know your status. HIV tests are quick, simple, confidential and free of charge. Regardless of the test result, we are here to support you and connect you to the care you need. You are not alone. Here’s where you can get tested →
What is HIV?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that destroys cells vital to a person’s immune system. It robs the body of its ability to fight other infections and illnesses. HIV makes the immune system weaker. When this happens, other infections can occur and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) develops. AIDS is the advanced stage of HIV infection.
How is HIV spread?
- Having unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal sex with someone who has HIV
- Sharing needles or other drug use equipment (i.e. cookers and pipes) with someone who has HIV
- Blood transfusions or organ transplants before 1985 (since November 1985 in Canada, all blood and blood products are tested for HIV)
- During pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding, the HIV virus can be passed from parent to child
- Tattooing, skin piercing, or acupuncture with unsterilized needles that have been in contact with the virus
HIV cannot be spread by:
- Sweat, spit, tears, clothes, phones, toilet seats, or drinking fountains
- Touching or hugging someone who is HIV positive or by working, living, or having non-sexual contact with someone who is HIV positive
- Mosquitoes or other insects that have been in contact with infected blood
What are the symptoms of HIV?
Some people may experience mild flu-like symptoms (chills, fever, fatigue, body aches, headaches, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, rash) 2 to 6 weeks after infection with HIV, these symptoms may last days to weeks. Most people then have no symptoms for years. Once the immune system is weakened, the following symptoms may develop:
- Fever or night sweats
- Joint or muscle pain
- Lesions on the skin, mouth, or genitals
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Rapid and unexplained weight loss
- Chronic diarrhea
- Recurrent infections (i.e., pneumonia, yeast infections)
How do you test for HIV?
Testing for HIV is done through a blood test. The HIV blood test looks for HIV antibodies. Antibodies are the body’s response to infection; they are found in the blood when someone has been exposed to the virus. HIV antibodies can take up to 6 weeks to show up in the blood after someone has been infected, this period after exposure and before the presence of antibodies is called the window period. If 6 weeks have not passed since the exposure or a person has a negative test before 6 weeks have passed, the test must be repeated when the window period of 6 weeks is over. If antibodies are detected in your blood, this means you are HIV positive.
How is HIV treated?
There are medications a person can take if they are HIV positive to help keep their immune system healthy and slow the progression of the disease, these medications are called antiretroviral therapy. Treatment for HIV/AIDS requires a commitment to manage the infection and to be monitored closely by a health care provider.
What about partners?
Notifying partners is very important. Individuals who test positive for HIV are asked to tell all sexual partners so they can be tested. A public health nurse can help contact sexual partners as needed.
Things to think about:
After infection, people may not feel or look sick for years. However, they can still pass HIV on to others. Over time, the immune system becomes damaged and people with HIV become sick with various illnesses. Most experts agree that HIV is considered a long-term chronic disease and many people with HIV can expect to live a normal life expectancy with specialized care and support from a healthcare team.
How can I reduce my chances of getting and spreading HIV?
- Reduce your number of sexual partners
- Use a condom or dental dam every time you have sex (oral, anal, and vaginal)
- Avoid sharing needles or other drug use equipment
- Do not share sex toys
- Ensure that acupuncture, tattoo, and body piercing establishments use sterilized needles and equipment
- If you are at risk of being exposed to HIV, consult with a healthcare provider about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent transmission
- If you have had or may have had an exposure to HIV, go to the hospital emergency department within 72 hours to discuss post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) with a healthcare provider. PEP can reduce the risk of transmission.
What is Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)?
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a highly effective prevention method that HIV-negative people can use to reduce their risk of getting HIV. PrEP involves taking medication (antiretroviral drugs) and attending regular appointments with a healthcare provider for monitoring and support.
Who qualifies for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)?
PrEP can be used by HIV-negative people who are at risk of contracting HIV. This includes:
- Men or transgender women who have sex with men who report condomless sex within the last 6 months and any of the following:
- STI, particularly if diagnosed in the last 12 months
- Recurrent use of PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis)
- Ongoing sexual relationship with an HIV-positive partner who may have transmissible HIV
- HIV-negative partner in a relationship with an HIV-positive partner who may have transmissible HIV and reports condomless sex
- People who inject drugs and may share drug use equipment
For more information about free or low-cost PrEP, visit: https://www.gofreddie.com
When should I get tested?
Get tested regularly, including after unprotected sex and using substances by injection, inhalation, or snorting.
Where can I get tested for HIV?
Free and confidential HIV testing is available at the locations listed below.
Middlesex-London Health Unit
Call 519-663-5317 to book an appointment
Monday and Wednesday
Options Clinic at London Intercommunity Health Centre
Call 519-673-4427 to book an appointment
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Regional HIV/AIDS Connection – Carepoint and Counterpoint Harm Reduction Programs
446 York St, London
|Call 519-434-1601 to book an appointment
For more information, please contact The Clinic at 519-663-5317.
Last modified on: May 26, 2023