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Transmission, symptoms and screening for HIV and AIDS

What are HIV and AIDS?

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is responsible for the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). The virus attacks the immune system, which is weakened and then no longer able to fight infections and viruses. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but proper medical care can control the virus and limit the severity of the infection.

How is HIV transmitted?

HIV is transmitted through contact with contaminated body fluids (semen, pre-ejaculatory fluid, vaginal secretions, anal secretions, blood or breast milk).

Its main modes of transmission are by:

  • Unprotected sexual intercourse (anal or vaginal)
  • Sharing needles and other drug injection equipment
  • Sharing sex toys
  • Sharing needles (tattooing or acupuncture), ink (tattooing) or jewelry (piercing)
  • Oral sex without a condom or dental dam
  • An infected and untreated mother to her child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding

It is important to note that HIV cannot be transmitted by:

  • Simple contact (cuddles, caresses, massages, kisses)
  • Sharing utensils or food
  • Sneezing or coughing
  • Drinking from water fountains
  • Sitting on toilet seats
  • Having contact with an insect or animal

What are the symptoms of HIV?

Infected people may have no symptoms and remain healthy for many years. Some, however, will develop symptoms such as:

  • Fever or night sweats
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes (groin, neck or underarm)
  • Oral candidiasis (whitish, thick and persistent granules on the tongue or in the mouth
  • Chronic vaginal yeast infections

What are the symptoms of AIDS?

AIDS is the most critical stage of HIV infection. People with AIDS are at risk of contracting serious diseases such as:

  • Pneumocystis pneumonia (lung infection with severe cough and severe shortness of breath)
  • Brain infection and direct damage to brain cells (effects: confusion, disorientation and loss of concentration)
  • Kaposi's sarcoma (skin cancer)
  • Invasive cervical cancer

How to get tested?

The immune system of newly HIV-positive people begins to produce antibodies, the presence of which can be detected by means of a blood test. HIV antibodies are found in the blood within 12 weeks of exposure to the virus.

There are various detection methods available. The 4th generation proofs used by Biron reduce the minimum time between exposure and the test to 14 days. Laboratories using 3rd generation tests can only detect HIV 6 to 12 weeks after probable exposure.

Comment le VIH et le SIDA sont-ils traités?

Il n’existe ni traitement définitif, ni vaccin pour le SIDA. Les traitements sont basés sur l’utilisation de médicaments qui bloquent ou ralentissent considérablement la multiplication du VIH. Ces agents antiviraux peuvent être utilisés à différentes étapes :

  • Prophylaxie préexposition (PPrE) : prise quotidienne de deux médicaments antiviraux chez les individus à risque.
  • Prophylaxie post-exposition (PPE) : prise de deux ou trois médicaments antiviraux pendant 28 jours suivant une exposition possible au VIH. Le traitement doit être débuté le plus rapidement possible, idéalement en dedans de 72 heures après exposition au virus.
  • Traitement d’une infection établie : il existe plusieurs combinaisons de médicaments qui peuvent être utilisées à long terme chez les individus porteurs du VIH et de nouvelles approches sont régulièrement proposées. Ces traitements sont adaptés à la condition particulière de chaque patient et visent à réduire au minimum la charge virale présente dans le sang. Suivis de façon rigoureuse, ces traitements sont en mesure de réduire considérablement le risque de contaminer un partenaire sexuel ou de développer les formes plus sévères du SIDA.

For professional support, we’re here for you. 

We offer an STI screening service without a prescription. Simply fill out a free and confidential questionnaire to help us determine the right tests, then book an appointment.

STI Screening Form Without a Prescription

Do you have symptoms? You will need a medical prescription to be tested. Once you have a prescription, book an appointment online or contact Biron Health Group customer service at 1 833-590-2712.

Get the service best suited to your needs for STI screening