HIV in Canada: A primer for service providers



Key Points

  • An estimated 23% of new HIV infections were among females in 2016.
  • Heterosexual contact and injection drug use are the main modes of transmission in females.
  • Females accounted for an estimated 23% of all Canadians with HIV in 2016.

The HIV epidemic has changed from the early years, from one that affected mostly gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men to one that increasingly affects other groups, including heterosexuals and people who inject drugs. As a result, the burden of HIV among females is increasing.

In 2016, females accounted for an estimated 23% of new infections, or 507 new infections. HIV incidence increased since 2014, when an estimated 436 new HIV infections occurred. Injection drug use and heterosexual contact were the main modes of HIV transmission in females, with an estimated 22% of females exposed through injection drug use and 78% exposed through heterosexual contact.

By the end of 2016, an estimated 14,520 females had HIV in Canada; 23% of all people with HIV were females.

Social and economic conditions (such as poverty, marginalization, gender power inequalities and violence) that fuel the HIV epidemic increase the vulnerability of females to HIV infection.


The epidemiology of HIV in females – CATIE fact sheet

Summary: Estimates of HIV incidence, prevalence and Canada’s progress on meeting the 90-90-90 HIV targets, 2016 – Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)

HIV/AIDS in Canada – CATIE infographic

New HIV infections in Canada – CATIE infographic

People living with HIV in Canada – CATIE infographic

Where is HIV hitting hardest? – CATIE infographic

HIV in Canada – PHAC infographic


Public Health Agency of Canada. Summary: Estimates of HIV Incidence, Prevalence and Canada’s Progress on Meeting the 90-90-90 HIV targets, 2016. Public Health Agency of Canada, 2018. Available from: