Stick it to Stigma

The Pledge to Create a Supportive Niagara Community:

HIV Related Stigma has no place in our community. HIV affects our friends, family and coworkers, they should all be supported with respect and dignity. I’m pledging my support and “Sticking It To Stigma” in Niagara by:

  • Educating myself about HIV and HIV Related Stigma

  • Sharing the facts with others, dispelling myths and common misinformation about HIV

  • Standing up, speaking out and challenging the negative attitudes that exist around HIV

  • Inviting others to “GET INFORMED-SHARE THE FACTS- STICK IT TO STIGMA" with Positive Living Niagara

  • WHAT is HIV related stigma?

    “HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination refers to prejudice, negative attitudes, abuse and maltreatment directed at people living with HIV and AIDS.”

    The consequences of stigma and discrimination are wide-ranging: being shunned by family, friends and the wider community, poor treatment in healthcare and education settings, an erosion of rights, psychological damage, and a negative effect on the success of HIV testing and treatment efforts.

    Stigma makes it more difficult for people who are HIV+ to come to terms with their diagnoses. It also interferes with managing their illness by making them reluctant to access HIV testing, treatment and care. The fear of stigma and discrimination is the main reason why people are reluctant to be tested, to disclose their HIV status or to take antiretroviral drugs. *

    Some factors that contribute to HIV/AIDS-related stigma include:

    • HIV/AIDS is a life-threatening disease, and therefore people react to it in strong ways.
    • HIV infection is associated with behaviors (such as homosexuality, drug addiction, prostitution or promiscuity) that are already stigmatized in many societies.
    • There is a lot of inaccurate information about how HIV is transmitted, creating irrational behavior and misperceptions of personal risk.
    • HIV infection is often thought to be the result of personal irresponsibility.
    • Religious or moral beliefs lead some people to believe that being infected with HIV is the result of moral fault (such as promiscuity or ‘deviant sex’) that deserves to be punished.**

    *World Health Organization, “Towards Universal Access: Scaling up priority HIV/AIDS interventions in the health sector: Progress report 2008.

    **AVERT: AVERting HIV and AIDS, HIV and AIDS Stigma and Discriminations 2013

  • WHAT is the difference...HIV/AIDS?

    They are not one in the same.

    HIV (or Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks your body’s built-in defence against disease and illness by infecting the very cells which would normally fight off infection. Anyone can be infected with HIV. You can have HIV without knowing it. You may not look or feel sick for years, but you can still pass the virus on to other people. Without treatment, HIV can progress and cause Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), the most advanced stage of infection.
    AIDS (or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) is a clinical diagnosis that indicates the most advanced stage of an HIV infection. At this point your immune system becomes too weak to fight off serious illnesses and can lead to life-threatening infections.

    By the #s:

    71,300: estimated # of Canadians living with HIV at the end of 2011.
    42.6% of all positive HIV test are from Ontario*
    : estimated number of people living with HIV in Niagara**

    *Public Health Agency of Canada, Summary: Estimates of HIV Prevalence and Incidence in Canada, 2011.

    **Ontario AIDS Network, Modelled HIV Prevalence, 2009.

  • WHO is at risk?

    HIV can and does affect all people. It is what you do, not who you are that puts you at risk

    Don’t think that’s you?
    Consider this: anyone who has had unprotected sex,

    or who has shared needles,

    or has had a partner who has done either of these things,

    or whose partner’s other partners may have done these things, may be at risk.

    In Canada, some groups of people are at an increased risk of infection, find out more here.

    You can also access more information through the HIV/AIDS hotline: 1-800-668-2437

  • HOW does someone get HIV?

    Remember “It is what you do, not who you are that puts you at risk”

    HIV infection can happen when HIV+ bodily fluids enter a person’s bloodstream.
    5 body fluids contain enough HIV to lead to infection: blood, semen (including pre-cum), rectal fluid, vaginal fluid and breast milk.

    The two main ways that HIV can get passed between you and someone else are:

    1) through unprotected sex

    2) by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs

    HIV can also be passed:

    • by sharing needles or ink to get a tattoo or body piercing

    • by sharing acupuncture needles

    • from a mother to child during pregnancy, birth or breast-feeding*

    HIV cannot pass through healthy, unbroken skin. You cannot become infected through ordinary day-to-day contact such as kissing, hugging, shaking hands, sharing personal objects, food or water.

    *Public Health Agency of Canada, HIV/AIDS Epi Updates, 2010.

  • PROTECTION: How can I protect myself and reduce my risk of getting HIV?

    You can reduce your risk by:

    • “Playing safe” use protection (condoms: external & internal, dental dam)
    • Have “The Conversation” Whether you are in a monogamous relationship or have casual partners, you should talk to your partner to be sure you are both fully informed. Awkward right? Try these tips.
  • TESTING: Where-When-How

    If you think you may be infected with HIV, the only way to know for sure is to be tested.
    Testing is voluntary and can be anonymous. Your results will remain confidential.
    Where: You can be tested at Positive Living Niagara, your doctor’s office, or at a sexual health clinic
    It is recommended that you are tested 6-12 weeks after the possibility of coming into contact with HIV. (See “How does someone get HIV above”).
    Since the HIV test looks for antibodies and not the actual virus, you need to wait until antibodies are made by your body. Antibodies can take from three to 12 weeks to show up in your blood after the time of infection. This period of time (from the time you are infected with HIV to the time when the antibodies appear in your blood) is often called the window period.
    How: 2 options
    The “standard test” involves taking a blood sample, that is sent to the lab to be tested for the presence of HIV antibodies. It usually takes about two weeks for the test results to come back.
    The “Rapid” HIV test involves a small finger prick to draw a small amount of blood, to be tested. The entire process, including counselling, takes about 20 minutes.
    For more info on testing: click here

    There are several places in the Niagara Region where you can get rapid HIV tests, with results in 5 minutes!

    Positive Living Niagara                                           905-984-8684
    120 Queenston St.

    Sexual Health Centres:

    Niagara Falls                                                             905-358-3636
    5710 Kitchener St.

    St. Catharines                                                           905-688-3817
    277 Welland Ave

    Welland                                                                     905-734-1014
    200 Division St.

    Fort Erie                                                                   905-871-5320
    43 Hagey Ave


    There is no vaccine or cure for HIV, but there are effective treatments.

    If left untreated, HIV damages your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to serious diseases. Antiretroviral Treatment uses a combination of drugs to fight the virus by blocking its ability to infect immune cells and continue replicating. Different groups, or classes, of drugs attack the virus in different ways which is why it is important to use different classes of drugs as treatment. This coordinate approach slows down the replication of the virus dramatically, the “assembly line” for building new virus slows and very little new virus gets produced from that point onward. Since very few viruses are now being created, the overall amount of HIV in your body—your viral load—gradually drops. Most people’s viral loads fall to undetectable levels within several months of starting treatment.

    Successful antiretroviral treatment might reduce your chances of transmitting HIV to a sexual partner. This has led some experts to suggest that many new infections can be prevented by diagnosing and treating as many HIV-positive people as possible—a concept called “treatment as prevention.”*

    Positive Living Niagara offers support for people infected and affected and at risk for HIV throughout Niagara. We provide support, education and prevention- you can get info, tested & connected with health and social support systems.

    The Special Immunology Services Clinic provides specialized health care people who are HIV+ or have HIV+ parents, and people who are co-infected with HIV and Hepatitis C. The team consists of a Clinic Leader, Doctors, Nurses, Social Workers, a Pharmacist, a Dietitian, Research Team and Administrative Support who work together to provide specialized care for HIV+ and HCV+ patients.

    Niagara Region Public Health Sexual Health promotes sexual health, provides local clinical services and helps people to learn how to be safe in their everyday lives. Available services include STI testing and treatment, pregnancy testing, the morning after pill distribution, choice counselling, free condoms and birth control at a reduced price.

    *CATIE (Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange), “A Practical Guide to HIV Drug Treatment for People Living with HIV 2nd Ed, 2011.


Now that you are informed, share the wealth and educate your friends and family by sharing this page; open and honest conversation about HIV/AIDS saves lives. When we talk about HIV, we help to break down the stigma around it, and we help to protect our own health and the health of those we love.

To request an education presentation, more information, or materials contact our Education Team. We are happy to host an education event at our office or come to your school, workplace or community space to Share the Facts about HIV in our community.



•Request a workshop or host a learning event to be held in your office, school, community group.

•Get informed on the facts about HIV above.

•Support World AIDS Day events.

•Visit Positive Living Niagara’s website and share it with colleagues and friends.

We can work together to create a supportive community and stick it to Stigma in Niagara!

GOT the facts? Find out and take the quiz.