ABC OF HIV : Primary infection


ABC OF HIVPrimary infection
May 18, 2017

This is the period immediately after the virus enters the body. At this stage, the virus multiplies quickly and transmission risks are highest.

This first phase can come with flu-like symptoms such as fever, throat pain, muscular pain, fatigue, swollen lymph-nodes and skin eruptions.

These symptoms, which disappear after a few weeks, are not present in all infected persons. Sometimes the primary infection stage goes by unnoticed. It is during this period that the immune system produces antibodies to defend itself against the virus.

Source : L’essentiel du VIH/sida, Portail VIH/sida du Québec, Benoît Lemire

Key populations


February 15, 2017

In the current dynamic of the HIV/AIDS epidemic at the global level, the communities most exposed to the virus are male and female sex workers, men who have sexual relations with other men and injectable drug users. Because of the discrimination and even criminalization they are subjected to, these persons are, in fact, 10% to 24% more liable to be infected by HIV than the general population. What is at issue here is the limited access to prevention and care when their sexual practices or drug use are condemned by society and even the State. According to the terms of reference of the United Nations these are « key » populations in the epidemic.

Source : Pulsation – June 2016 – Coalition PLUS

Is HIV a reportable disease?


February 16, 2016

Some believe that people living with HIV must disclose their viral status to their employers, to their dentists etc. because, they claim, HIV/AIDS is a reportable disease. How true is this?

For Health Canada, a reportable disease is a « disease considered sufficiently important to make it compulsory to declare any cases observed to the health authorities ». It can be a contagious disease that was thought to have disappeared or to have been under control, or a disease caused by exposure to chemicals or parasites, such as cholera, measles or cancer caused by asbestos.

This list is proposed to the provinces which decide, for each illness, the information to be reported to Health Canada and the type of monitoring to be carried out. Quebec has thus established its own list. These are illnesses liable to cause epidemics if nothing is done to keep them in check and recognized as significant threats to public health. The name of a person infected with a reportable disease, his or her contact details, date of birth and health-insurance number, along with details of the disease’s progress have to be reported so as to prevent it from spreading.

In Québec, HIV/AIDS is not a reportable illness, because it is not a contagious disease requiring immediate intervention. The only circumstance in which HIV/AIDS is reportable is when the person concerned has received or given blood or tissues.
Each new case of HIV/AIDS is declared, but without naming the patient. The information reported can only be used for statistical purposes.

Disclosing one’s HIV status therefore has nothing to do with the idea of reportability.

HIV status is confidential. A person living with HIV is not obliged to disclose it to anyone, except in two precise situations: when (s)he takes out an insurance policy; before a sexual relationship that entails a “realistic possibility” of HIV transmission. Moreover, under no circumstances may a third party disclose the viral status of another person without his/her consent.

For more information:

Combined prevention



Auguste 19, 2015

HIV prevention strategies can take on many forms today, the main ones being behavioural, structural and biomedical.

Behavioural prevention strategies are aimed at replacing risky individual and collective behaviours that favour the transmission of the virus with safer behaviours, such as wearing condoms and getting tested for HIV.

Structural strategies focus more widely on social, economic, legal, cultural and educational factors liable to increase the vulnerability of persons and groups most exposed to the epidemic and to impede behavioural change.

Biomedical strategies include pre-exposure treatment and triple-drug therapy.

Combined prevention aims at a synergy between all these strategies. It no longer opposes behavioural prevention on one hand and biomedical prevention on the other. It notably now tends to bring prevention, screening and treatment together in a global approach.

While the AIDS epidemic has experienced a net reduction over the past few years, efforts to prevent HIV transmission have not made it possible to avoid new infections, with very different levels of incidence in certain countries or regions, within certain population groups, in certain areas with generalised epidemics and in countries where the epidemic is most concentrated.

The combined prevention strategy is therefore aimed at improving the effectiveness of the prevention and reduction of HIV transmission risks for the benefit of individuals and the community.


Pre-exposure prophylaxis and post-exposure prophylaxis


May 13th, 2015

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) entails taking regular preventive doses of medication normally used to treat HIV so as to concentrate that drug in the body, thus reducing the risk of infection in the event of exposure.

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PPE) is prescribed for uninfected persons following exposure to HIV. It has been demonstrated that taking PPE within three (3) days after real exposure to HIV can reduce the risk of infection

Prevalence and incidence



February 18th, 2015

Prevalence is a measurement of the state of health of a population within a particular period of time. For a given disease, it is calculated by referring to the targeted population the number of cases of disease known at a given time within this population. Prevalence is a proportion generally expressed as a percentage.

Prevalence should not be confused with incidence. Incidence only takes into account the number of new cases per year, while prevalence is based on the total number of cases present, i.e., those already present, plus those that are incidental. Thus, prevalence is always superior to incidence.

Undetectable viral load



November 25th, 2014

This is the goal of treatment. When an HIV-positive person is in treatment, the objective is to gradually reduce the amount of virus in their blood to the point where it’s no longer detectable. In Quebec, a viral load of 40 copies per ml is considered undetectable. Anything under this limit is an indication that the disease is less active, thus allowing the immune system to recover, and the person to stay in good health. An undetectable viral load significantly reduces the risk of transmission from a very high risk level, to a very low risk level*.

*According to the INSPQ experts consensus, the risk of transmission from sexual relations without a condom is reduced from a high level to a negligible level when six conditions are met.



June 16th, 2014

Immunodeficiency is a deficit of the immune system. Sometimes referred to as immunosuppression, this condition results in an organism having a reduced or non-existent ability to fight infection or illness. When it is pronounced and sustained, the affected person becomes extremely susceptible to opportunistic infections (caused by normally harmless germs that only affect organisms with weakened defenses). There are two types of immunodeficiency: innate immunodeficiency (rare) and acquired immunodeficiency, the most well-known example of which is AIDS.

Source: Santé




April 23th, 2014

Sexually transmissible and blood-born infections (STBBIs) are divided into three categories:

– Bacterial infections – chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis
– Viral infections – HIV, hepatitis B and C, herpes, HPV
– Parasitic infections – crab-lice, scabies

Most of these are transmitted through the exchange of infected body fluids (vaginal secretions, sperm, pre-ejaculatory fluid, blood) during sexual activity – oral, vaginal, or anal. Some, like herpes and HPV, can also be transmitted by skin-to-skin contact in the genital area.

It should not be forgotten that the majority of those infected do not have any symptoms, and so are unaware that they could transmit an STBBIs.

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Revealing one’s serostatus



February 7th, 2014

Because of its confidential nature, serostatus is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Therefore there is no legal obligation to disclose one’s status in everyday life situations and in the absence of the risk of transmission. But the question of revealing seropositive status is an everyday issue for people living with HIV. Should they reveal it or conceal it? To whom and from whom? When? How? This is often a difficult decision, because the stigma is real, and rejection, whether real or perceived, is always a possibility.