If you just found out you are HIV-positive...

Finding out you have HIV may be a shock. You do not have to go through this alone: There is help. With ongoing treatment, care and support, HIV can be managed. You can live long and well with HIV.

You’ve already taken the first step by getting tested. Now it is important to get care and treatment as soon as you can.

1. HIV can be treated. Talk to the person who gave you your test result about finding a doctor who treats people with HIV. If they cannot give you the name and number of an HIV doctor or a clinic that specializes in HIV, call the HIV hotline in your area or visit HIV411.

2. HIV treatment might be simpler than you think. Newer HIV medications are easier to take and usually cause few side effects. Treatment can help you stay healthy and greatly reduces your chance of passing HIV on to others.

3. You may be contacted by a public health nurse who will provide you with basic information about HIV. The nurse will also talk to you about informing your current and past sex partners and (if you use drugs) people you have shared drug equipment with that it is important for them to have an HIV test. This can be done anonymously, without giving your name to these partners.

4. You don’t have to tell everyone you have HIV, but you do have a legal duty to tell your sex partner(s) before having sex in certain circumstances. (For more information, contact the HIV Legal Network at

5. Find out how you can keep yourself and others safe. HIV can be passed to others during sex or by sharing equipment for using drugs (such as needles). But there are things you can do to practice safer sex—for example, you can use condoms and take HIV medications to maintain an undetectable viral load. If you use drugs, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of transmission, such as using new equipment every time you use.

To find out more about safer sex and safer drug use, talk to a public health nurse or other healthcare worker.

6. Getting support is important. HIV organizations can provide information and counselling and connect you with other services in your area. To find an HIV organization in your area visit .

For more information:

If you have questions, you can e-mail us at (E-mail is not private or confidential. For your protection, our responses will not include any confidential information.)

Here are some resources to help take you through the next steps:

Finding help in your area

To locate an HIV organization or other HIV-related service in your area, visit HIV411.

Coming to terms with your diagnosis

Healthy living

  • The Positive Side, CATIE’s health and wellness magazine for people living with HIV

Safer sex and safer drug use

HIV treatment

  • Starting treatment from Your Guide to HIV Treatment, CATIE’s guide to antiretroviral therapy

HIV and the law