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Okanagan Aboriginal AIDS Society Definitions

    What is HIV?   Human Immunodeficiency Virus. The virus attacks and damages the body's immune and nervous systems.

    How is HIV passed?   HIV is found in blood and certain body fluids including vaginal fluids, semen & breast milk. HIV is passed through sexual contact; sharing infected needles/syringes (rigs); and from an infected mother to her baby before birth, during delivery or through breast milk.

    What is AIDS?   Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome. It is the final stage of HIV infection, when the body's immune system defenses are destroyed. A person with AIDS is susceptible to serious “Opportunistic Infections”. Although people can live for 10 years or more with the HIV, at present it is considered to be a fatal disease.

    What is Hepatitis C?   Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by a virus (HCV). HCV is spread when people share blood or body fluids containing blood; by sharing personal grooming equipment, needles or other equipment to use drugs.

    How is HCV passed?   Hepatitis C is usually spread by blood-to-blood contact with infected blood. If you ever shared needles (for drug use, steroids, piercing or tattoos) shared drug equipment (crack pipes, snorting straws), shared personal grooming items, or if your mother had the virus before you were born there is a possibility that you could have come in contact with this virus.


There is no cure for HIV/AIDS or Hepatitis C. Only abstinence from high risk behaviors will stop the virus entering your body


    What can I do so I will not get these viruses?

    One:   Abstain from sex

    Two:   Don't have unprotected sex. Always use a male or female condom for vaginal or anal intercourse; Oral sex is safer with a condom.

    Three:   Do not share needles for any purpose (drugs or tattoos). If you use injection drugs never share needles. Basically do not share any fluids at all. If you are considering a tattoo or body piercing be sure that sterile needles and fresh ink are used. Make sure the place is clean.

    How can we help you understand?   We do public speaking on the issues of how and why the Aboriginal People are becoming infected with HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. We do a preventive program and show people how to look after themselves if and when they are involved in any risky behavior.


Our people are over represented in infection rates: In one year alone, 9% of all new HIV infections in Canada were among Aboriginal People, while we account for only 2.8% of the population. In Canada Aboriginal People are being infected with the HIV virus at the rate 370 new cases per year and Hepatitis C infection rates are climbing fast.


Let's get together and stop these viruses from harming our communities further.


© 2002, Okanagan Aboriginal AIDS Society. Site designed by Brian Mairs Consulting