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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 acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). It attacks the immune system, which is weakened and then no longer able to fight infections and viruses. HIV/AIDS cannot be cured.

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. However, some develop symptoms such as:

  • Fever or night sweats
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Dwollen 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 the disease 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.

Pour en savoir plus
Si vous avez des questions ou désirez obtenir plus d’information, n’hésitez pas à communiquer avec le service à la clientèle de Biron au 1 800 463-7674.