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General HIV Information

HIV (or Human Immunodeficiency Virus) weakens our immune system, our body’s built-in defense against illness. Without HIV treatment, our immune system can become too weak to fight off serious illnesses and may progress into AIDS (or Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome).

There is no vaccine to prevent HIV and no cure for this virus. With proper care and treatment, most of us living with HIV can avoid getting AIDS and can stay healthy for a long time.

Viral Load

HIV viral load is the amount of HIV (or number of virus) in the bodily fluids of a person living with HIV. It is measured in the blood and a higher viral load is associated with a higher risk of HIV transmission.
Research shows that successful HIV treatment can reduce the viral load to “undetectable” levels and this can significantly reduce the risk of HIV transmission. Viral load in the blood is not always the same as in other fluids.

Treatment as Prevention (TasP)

TasP refers to HIV prevention methods that use antiretroviral treatment (ART) to decrease the risk of HIV transmission, specifically the treatment of HIV-positive people to reduce the health impacts of the virus as well as reduce the possibility the virus can be passed on. ART is intended to reduce the HIV viral load in various bodily fluids to “undetectable” levels.

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)

PEP is a way for a person who is HIV-negative who may have recently been exposed to HIV to prevent the virus from establishing itself in the body. It involves taking anti-HIV medications as soon as possible after a potential exposure (within 72 hours). PEP is not 100% effective.

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)

PrEP is a way for an HIV-negative person who has a possibility of getting HIV to reduce the possibility of getting the virus. PrEP means taking anti-HIV medications (i.e. “Truvada”) daily with regular appointments with your doctor. If taken as prescribed, PrEP is highly effective.

PrEP has not been approved by Health Canada but some Canadian doctors may be willing to prescribe a form of PrEP approved in the US for “off-label” use. To access PrEP in the Vancouver area, contact the Health Promotion Case Management Program at



Ryan Vande
August 08th, 2016