Getting Started

You’ve just found out you have HIV. A lot of information and emotions are probably coming at you right now. We’re going to help you break it down, step by step.

First, some reassurance

Know that people with HIV can live long and healthy lives! Today’s HIV treatments (also called HIV medications or antiretroviral therapy) are very effective. They are easier to take and cause fewer side effects than older HIV drugs. In fact, many people experience no side effects at all.

The best way to keep your HIV under control is to get connected to care. It’s important to find a doctor and a pharmacist who know about HIV and can answer any questions you may have; for help finding these, contact an HIV support service in your area (see below).

It’s important to start treatment as soon as possible and take your HIV medication regularly, without missing doses. This will lower the amount of HIV in your body to a level so low, it cannot be detected by an HIV test. This is called having an undetectable viral load.

Once you are on effective HIV treatment and have an undetectable viral load, you can:

  • stay healthy
  • have sex without passing HIV to your sex partners (you cannot transmit HIV through sex if you have an undetectable viral load)
  • have a healthy pregnancy and give birth to an HIV-negative baby

All good news!

One of the best things you can do as someone with HIV is connect with support services for people with HIV in your area. These places offer support and information and can connect you with other people with HIV. Many people find that speaking to others who are in the same boat makes a big difference. Visit HIV411.ca to find HIV services in your area.

For information for people newly diagnosed with HIV, check out:

It’s All Still Possible: Starting points for living well with HIV – Basic information about what HIV is, how you can stay healthy, how you can avoid passing HIV to others and next steps.

Want to learn more about living long and well with HIV? Visit:

The Power of Undetectable: What you need to know about HIV treatment as prevention – How taking HIV treatment and maintaining an undetectable viral load prevents HIV transmission.

Your Guide to HIV Treatment – Comprehensive information about HIV treatment, including the benefits, how it works and how to make treatment work for you.

Growing Your Family: An introduction to pregnancy planning, surrogacy and adoption for people living with HIV – This resource provides an introduction to the options available for people with HIV who want to have children, including pregnancy, surrogacy and adoption.

What Works: What you need to know if you have HIV and inject drugs – information for people with HIV who use drugs

The Positive Side – CATIE’s health and wellness magazine for people living with HIV contains practical health information and the stories of people living with HIV. Subscribe to the print and/or online version for FREE.

Strong Medicine – An educational video developed with the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network for Indigenous people living with HIV.