HIV/AIDS fact sheet

Related travel health notices

What is HIV/AIDS?

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and impairs the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness which leaves people vulnerable to serious infections and cancers. When the body’s immune system is severely impaired, the disease is known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). AIDS is the advanced stage of HIV infection.

What is my risk?

The risk depends on behaviours while travelling rather than the region or country you visit.

High risk activities include anything which puts you in contact with blood or bodily fluids, such as unprotected sex and exposure to unsterilized needles for medications or other substances (for example, steroids and drugs), tattooing, body-piercing or acupuncture.

Travellers who receive a blood transfusion or organ transplant may also be at risk in those countries that do not adequately screen the blood/organ supply for HIV and other viruses transmitted through blood and/or transplanted organs.

How is it transmitted?

What are the symptoms?

Can HIV/AIDS be treated?

There is no cure for HIV/AIDS; however, antiretroviral drugs can slow the advancement of HIV and prevent the spread of the virus to others.

Where is HIV/AIDS a concern?

HIV/AIDS is a global concern. The UNAIDS AIDSinfo website provides more information on country-specific HIV infection rates.

If you are living with HIV/AIDS:


Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.

There is no vaccine to prevent HIV infection. The only way to eliminate your risk is to not engage in sexual or other activities where body fluids are exchanged. You can reduce your risk by following the recommendations listed below.

1. Practice safer sex:

2. Avoid behaviour which may increase your risk of HIV and other STIs, such as:

3. Avoid injections, blood transfusions and organ transplantations unless it is an emergency:

4. Be aware of sexual violence:

5. Get tested:

Related links
Other resources
  • HIV/AIDS, Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)
  • HIV/AIDS, Healthy Canadians (Government of Canada)
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