A better pill to swallow

HIV treatment has come a long way! If you’ve heard scary stories about the HIV medications of yesteryear—handfuls of pills that need to be taken several times a day and cause unpleasant side effects—rest assured that newer drugs are far more effective, safer, easier to tolerate and much simpler to take. HIV treatment, and what we know about it, has changed dramatically. You’ll be glad to know it’s largely a good news story!

Several very effective HIV medications that are easy to take and have few side effects are available for all Canadians.

Not only have the medications themselves improved but so has our knowledge about treatment. In recent years we have learned that it is best for your health to begin treatment as soon as possible after being diagnosed. No more waiting around for the best time to start, no more weighing the pros and cons. Research has clearly shown that starting treatment early decreases your risk of developing serious illnesses. Starting treatment early is good for your long-term health and your lifespan.

And there’s more good news: We’ve also learned that continuous care and HIV treatment that keeps your viral load undetectable prevents the sexual transmission of HIV. In other words, if you see your healthcare provider regularly and keep taking your HIV treatment so that your viral load stays undetectable (HIV is still in your blood but at levels too low to be detected by routine tests), you do not pass on HIV to partners during sex.

Knowing your status is a good thing…. You’re still the same person you were before you were diagnosed. Get your meds and health in order and you’ll be doing better than the average person.


We also know that HIV treatment can prevent HIV transmission from an HIV-positive mother* to her baby during pregnancy and childbirth, allowing HIV-positive women to have healthy pregnancies and give birth to HIV-negative babies. HIV treatment also lowers the chance of passing HIV through shared drug equipment but we don’t know by how much.

So, HIV treatment is good for you and for the ones you love. As someone living with HIV, starting and staying on treatment is one of the best things you can do for your health.

* We have used the words mother and woman in this guide but we recognize that some people who can get pregnant and have babies do not identify as women.