Films such as Dallas Buyers Club and The Normal Heart may leave the impression that an HIV-positive diagnosis heralds a slow and painful decline. Be assured, such is not the case. The early days of the AIDS scourge are behind us.

The great news today is that when HIV-positive people in Canada are tested and receive treatment, they can virtually eliminate their risk of developing AIDS and other serious illnesses related to HIV. They are, in fact, reaching lifespans of people who do not have HIV.

The bottom line: HIV treatment can give you a long life, and starting earlier is better. Getting tested early for HIV, and deciding to go on treatment, can put you on that road toward a healthy, long life.

"The bottom line: HIV treatment can give you a long life, and starting earlier is better."

Many Canadians don’t know these facts. And sadly, one quarter of the 71,300 people living with HIV in Canada do not know they are infected.

Treatment today is much improved. HIV drugs are now easier to take than the older ones. The newer anti-HIV drugs cause far fewer side effects, which makes staying on medication (a must) – easier to handle.

Early detection can lead to better health outcomes and near-normal lifespans. It also prevents further transmission, since a large proportion of new HIV infections may come from individuals who have been newly infected but don’t yet know it.

Canada has an extensive network of healthcare professionals, community-based organizations and AIDS service organizations. They are there to provide testing and counselling and help you in your journey of medical treatment and care. Living long and living well with HIV is today’s prognosis, if proper steps are taken. In some places in Canada everyone who has ever had sex without a condom is encouraged to have an HIV test. Talk to your doctor or check out one of the many agencies, where you can have a simple test to see if you are one of the 25 percent of HIV-positive Canadians who don’t know their status. It’s better to know. 

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