Key messages

HIV is a virus that weakens the immune system, the body’s built-in defense against disease and illness.

HIV can only be passed from a person with HIV through contact with five bodily fluids: blood, semen (including pre-cum), rectal fluid, vaginal fluid, and breastmilk. In Ontario, HIV is passed mainly through sex or by sharing drug use equipment.

There are highly effective ways to prevent the transmission of HIV. These include the use of condoms, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), HIV treatment by a person with HIV, and the use of new needles/syringes and other equipment used to inject drugs.

Testing is the only way to know if a person has HIV.

Early diagnosis and initiation of daily HIV treatment is important for optimal health outcomes. Treatment works by reducing the amount of virus in the body. Successful treatment reduces the virus to levels that current tests cannot detect (undetectable viral load). HIV treatment not only improves health and quality of life but also plays a key role in the prevention of HIV transmission.


What does this mean locally / at your organization?

We suggest you chat with your supervisor and/or colleagues and learn about the following:

  • Where can HIV testing, treatment and prevention services be accessed in the community?
  • What harm reduction services (e.g. consumption treatment services) are available in the community?
  • How does your organization support people living with or at risk of HIV? How does your role specifically provide support for people living with or at risk of HIV?
  • What is the prevalence rate of HIV in your area?
  • How might the environment and social construction (e.g. little access to public transit, high poverty areas, etc.)  in your area impact risk factors for acquiring/transmitting HIV?
  • What are the risk factors to consider for the clients you serve?


Learn more here

  • HIV Basics on EduCATIE – CATIE’s HIV Basics is an introductory-level course geared toward service providers who work with people at risk of or living with HIV. This course aims to build foundational knowledge of HIV, covering topics such as HIV epidemiology, transmission, testing, treatment, prevention and the long-term impact of HIV infection.
  • Preventing the Sexual Transmission of HIV on EduCATIE – CATIE’s Preventing the Sexual Transmission of HIV course aims to develop core knowledge on the prevention of sexual transmission of HIV for front-line service providers who have a role in HIV prevention.
  • HIV Basics for ClientsVery basic client messaging defining HIV and providing information about HIV treatment, HIV prevention, HIV testing and legal issues.
  • CATIE Ordering CentreThe CATIE Ordering Centre distributes HIV and hepatitis C resources free-of-charge to frontline service providers across Canada.
  • Sign up for CATIE Email Newsletters


Training modules

Depending on the nature of your position, it’s likely you’ll be dealing primarily with either (a) the biomedical basis of HIV or (b) the socially deterministic / harm reduction issues surrounding it. Please select and review the module below that corresponds to your work.

  • Training module: HIV Basics (Biomedical Focus)

    Teaching modality: Self-paced online course
    Activity length: 1-2 hours per week for 6 weeks (6-8 hours total)
    Target audience: Service providers working with people living with or at risk of HIV

    Learning objectives:

    • Define basic terminology related to HIV.
    • Understand the context of HIV in Canada.
    • Discuss HIV transmission with accuracy.
    • Explain the tests used to diagnose HIV and describe the HIV testing process.
    • Communicate the basics of HIV treatment to clients.
    • Understand the impact of long-term HIV infection.

    This course was developed by CATIE.

    Register here

  • Training module: Introduction to HIV

    Teaching modality:

    • User-guided online module
    • Tutorial videos and quizzes incorporating perspectives of six people from various demograpics and living throughout Ontario
    • Covers both technical aspects and human experience
    • Certificate of participation available, instructions provided at end of course

    Activity length: Approximately 3 hours that can be divided into shorter segments to work with your schedule (some modules are 10 minutes others 20 minutes)

    Target audience: Aimed at health and social service providers in Ontario with limited to no understanding of HIV.

    Learning objectives:

    • Assist workers in supporting people who are at risk of, or who are already living with HIV
    • Gain accurate information about transmission and prevention
    • Learn about HIV/AIDS, testing, treatments, and support
    • Understand the connections between mental health, substance use, stigma and discrimination
    • Talk about sex and drugs!

    This course was created by the Ontario Harm Reduction Network.

    Register here