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Health Concerns

HIV and AIDS

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus that causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). HIV attacks the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness that leaves infected people vulnerable to opportunistic infections and cancers. The median time from infection to AIDS diagnosis now exceeds 10 years. AIDS is fatal if left untreated. There is no cure.

The following activities can place a person at high-risk for HIV infection:

  • engaging in unprotected sexual intercourse (anal or vaginal)
  • sharing sex toys
  • sharing needles or equipment for injecting drugs or steroids
  • mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy, delivery, and breast-feeding

Other activities pose a low risk for contracting the HIV infection, but they still carry a risk. You can read more about these activities in the It's Your Health factsheet on HIV/AIDS.

HIV cannot be transmitted through:

  • Casual, everyday contact
  • Shaking hands, hugging, kissing
  • Coughs, sneezes
  • Giving blood
  • Swimming pools, toilet seats
  • Sharing eating utensils, water fountains
  • Mosquitoes, other insects, or animal bites.

For more information on HIV/AIDS treatment and how to minimize your risk, consult the It's Your Health factsheet on HIV/AIDS.

Government of Canada's Role

The Federal Initiative is a Government of Canada partnership engaging the Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Correctional Service of Canada.  Its aim is to prevent the spread of the disease, slow its progression, and improve the quality of life of people living with HIV and AIDS.  Through this Initiative, the Government of Canada collaborates with provincial and territorial governments, non-governmental organizations, researchers, health care professionals, and people living with and vulnerable to HIV and AIDS.

The Federal Initiative approach focuses on those populations most affected by HIV and AIDS - people living with HIV and AIDS, gay men, Aboriginal peoples, people who use injection drugs, prison inmates, women, youth at risk, and people from countries where HIV is endemic.

Canada has also responded to the global HIV/AIDS crisis. A key component of this approach is the Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative (CHVI). The CHVI coordinates Canadian contribution to global efforts to accelerate the development of safe, effective, affordable, and globally accessible HIV vaccines.

Established in 2007, the CHVI represents a collaborative Canadian contribution to the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, which is dedicated to accelerating worldwide efforts towards the development of safe, effective, affordable, and globally accessible HIV vaccines, which are essential to ultimately overcoming the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Participating departments and agencies include the Canadian International Development Agency, Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Industry Canada.

Resource Centres

Federal Initiative

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