Fact Sheet – HIV in Canada

Backgrounder

Justice Canada’s Report on the Criminal Justice System’s Response to HIV Non-Disclosure

December 2017

HIV

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) causes HIV infection and, over time, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). AIDS is a condition that involves a failure of the immune system, allowing life-threatening infections and cancers to thrive. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) estimates that approximately 65,040 persons were living with HIV in Canada at the end of 2014 and that:

  • Approximately 80% of persons who were living with HIV were diagnosed: that is, they were aware of their HIV-positive status.
  • Approximately 76% diagnosed persons were on antiretroviral treatment.
  • 89% of persons on antiretroviral treatment had achieved a suppressed viral load.

The Public Health Agency of Canada’s data also tell us that:

  • The most significant increase in HIV diagnoses in 2015 were among those aged 25 to 29.
  • Indigenous persons, persons from countries where HIV is endemic (primarily countries in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean) and men who had sex with men are overrepresented among those living with HIV in Canada.

HIV Infection

HIV infection can occur through transfer of blood, semen, vaginal fluid, rectal fluid, pre-ejaculate and breast milk. HIV is both a blood borne and sexually transmitted infection. HIV infection combined with other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections such as hepatitis B, C and syphilis can increase the infectiousness of HIV, and having HIV can impair the immune system’s ability to fight these infections.

Many people living with HIV experience periods of good health that are interrupted by unpredictable periods of ill health and disability (including pain, fatigue, depression, decreased memory, and difficulties with day-to-day activities).

HIV Treatment

HIV, once a fatal condition, is now manageable thanks to significant advances in HIV treatment. Available data show that an increasing number of Canadians living with HIV are accessing treatment, which is critical to stopping the spread of HIV. Timely initiation of treatment and remaining on HIV medication are important to suppress viral load, which prevents HIV-related illness and optimizes health. Sustained treatment also reduces the potential for onward HIV transmission in the community. However, it remains incurable and has serious physical and psychological implications for those who contract it. For example, HIV continues to have a significant impact on life expectancy and deaths from AIDS still occur. Persons living with HIV who are on treatment experience higher rates of certain diseases, including cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.


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