It’s good for your health!

We now know that there are huge benefits to starting HIV treatment early, before the virus has had a chance to do much damage to your immune system. The earlier you are diagnosed with HIV after infection and the earlier you start treatment, the better. This is true whether your CD4 count is high or low.

Research shows that people who start treatment immediately after diagnosis significantly reduce their risk of developing serious illnesses, such as cancer and life-threatening infections. This is true regardless of a person's sex, age, race or ethnicity. Treatment also protects the body by reducing chronic inflammation caused by HIV. We now know that the benefits of starting treatment early greatly outweigh the possible risks. As a result, Canadian treatment guidelines now recommend that HIV treatment be offered immediately to all people diagnosed with HIV.

What I try to tell my patients is that an HIV diagnosis is significant – it’s not something to trivialize – but if you get on effective antiretroviral therapy and we work on this together, you’ll be around well into old age. We’ll both be hobbling around my office together when we’re 102!

Dr. Lisa Barrett, Infectious diseases specialist