Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the immune system, the body's natural defense system. Without a strong immune system, the body has trouble fighting off infections. Around 25% of people with HIV infection are unaware of their condition and do not have symptoms. They may continue to spread the infection without knowing it. HIV treatment is available, which allows people with HIV to live long, healthy lives and protect their sexual partner(s). Without HIV treatment, HIV is a chronic illness that gets worse over time. In the severe stage, when the body can no longer fight infections, it is called acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).


Within a few weeks of initial infection, many people may have fever, rash, joint or muscle pains, enlarged lymph nodes, sore throat, fatigue, headache, oral and/or genital ulcers, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms last for a week or two then go away until years later.

Other people have no initial symptoms at all. They may appear and feel healthy for several years. Even if they feel healthy, HIV is still affecting their bodies, and the virus can be spread to others. Without treatment, HIV progresses to AIDS, which results from severe damage to the immune system. AIDS often begins as weight loss, chronic diarrhea, fever and fatigue. The symptoms then progress to those of severe infections or cancers and eventually death.

The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested for it.


HIV can be transmitted through blood, rectal fluid, semen, vaginal fluid or breast milk. The virus is usually spread through sexual contact or contact with blood. Contact with blood can occur when sharing needles and other equipment for drug use.

It can be passed to the baby during pregnancy or childbirth or while breastfeeding.


There is currently no cure for HIV. However, the use of antiretroviral therapy (ART) reduces the amount of HIV in the body and helps prevent HIV from progressing to AIDS. Treatment also decreases the chance of transmitting HIV to others; this is known as treatment as prevention. Due to these medications, HIV is no longer considered a terminal illness. Many people live long and healthy lives after becoming infected with HIV.

Although HIV can also be passed on during pregnancy, birth or while breastfeeding, but with proper care and treatment, transmission to the baby can be prevented.


Reduce your risk for HIV infection:

  • Get tested and treated  for HIV and other sexually transmitted and blood borne infections (STBBIs). Check with your health care provider on how often you should get tested.
  • Practice safer sex (e.g., use condoms/barrier methods correctly and consistently)
  • Choose activities with lower HIV risk like oral sex (which may still be high risk for other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like syphilis and gonorrhea)
  • If you are likely to be in contact with someone else's blood, wear disposable gloves. Also, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 15 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before putting on and after taking off the gloves.
  • Do not share needles or other equipment for drug use. Use new needles and equipment every time.
  • If you are at ongoing risk for HIV, ask your health care provider if pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is right for you

If you think you've been exposed to HIV within the last 3 days, ask a health care provider about post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) right away. PEP can prevent HIV, but it must be started within 72 hours of being exposed

Information on Testing

If you have been in contact with blood or other body fluids that you suspect might be infected with HIV, it is critical that you consult a health care provider immediately. Your health care provider may request HIV testing for you.

If you are living with HIV
  • You can live a long and healthy life with HIV treatment and care
  • Find and stay connected to HIV care. It can keep you healthy and help reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to others
  • Take your HIV medicine as prescribed
  • Use condoms/barrier methods the right way every time you have sex, and talk to your partners about PrEP
  • Get tested and treated for other STIs

Talk with a doctor or health care provider about your risk for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Have an open and honest conversation about your sexual history and testing for STIs. Your doctor can give you the best advice on any testing and treatment that you may need.

Manitoba Health Resources

For the Public

For Health Care Providers

Testing of Body Fluids and Disclosure Legislation


HIV Medication Forms

Other Resources

Communicable Disease Control (CDC)
Public Health
Manitoba Health

4th Floor - 300 Carlton St.
Winnipeg MB  R3B 3M9  CANADA

Health Links – Info Santé
204-788-8200 or 1-888-315-9257