HIV prevention, testing and treatment have all changed so much.
Are you up to date?
Here's a few key things about what HIV means right now!
For 2021 AIDS Awareness Week ACNS invited some community members
There's no shame in looking after your health. Getting an HIV test is a key part of that and recommended for everyone. That test can now be done by you in your own home.
ACNS has a limited supply of free HIV self-tests. Phone 902-403-7841 to find out more. You can also access 1-3 free HIV self-tests by being part of the "I'm Ready" study. You can also order you own from the manufacturer and have it shipped to your door.
For anyone who has not ever had an HIV test it is recommended that you get one. For those who are sexually active - even if only involved with one long-term partner, OR if you inject drugs - getting tested for HIV once per year is recommended.
If you have more partners within any 12 month-month period testing more frequently should be considered. One test per 5 partners with whom you've had anal or vaginal sex is one guide to consider. Testing more often than every 3 months is likely of little benefit.
NOTE: There is a time-lag between when you might have been infected with HIV, and when the test can confirm that you are HIV+. This is called a "window period", and reflects a limitation of the testing technology currently available. The window period for HIV screening tests used in Nova Scotia can exceed one to three months in some individuals. However, in the majority of people these tests can detect HIV within one month of infection. So, if you have had a potential HIV exposure, get tested after at least 3 weeks (the soonest you might know), and again after 3 months (to be sure).
It's estimated that 13% of Canadians who are HIV+ are unaware of that fact. Regular testing is crucial if we are to end new infections, and have the best health outcomes for those already living with HIV.
Today's treatments for HIV work very well with minimal side effects. If diagnosed early, the typical prognosis is that, about six months after you start HIV treastment, your infection will be fully controlled and your HIV viral will be "undetectable". So long as you keep taking your medication to control it, you should have minimal health impacts from HIV.
If your HIV is fully controlled - and your HIV viral load reaches and remains stable at "undetectable" for at least six months - from that point forward it is impossible to pass on HIV to your sexual partner(s). An undetectable HIV viral load means your HIV is also "untrasmittable". This is often abbreviated as "Undetectable HIV = Untransmittable HIV" or U=U.
Research in the US tells us that those who are undiagnosed (15% of those liviing with HIV in the US) account for 38% of new HIV transmissions there; those diagnosed but untreated (23% of those liviing with HIV) account for 43%; and those in treatement but not virally suppressed (not undetectable - 11% of those liviing with HIV) account for 20% of new HIV transmissions. People who were virally suppressed accounted for 0% of new HIV transmissions (U=U).
We don't have the data in Canada to assess these same impacts directly. However, in Canada, access to treatment is considerably better than in the US, so we have:
- fewer people not on treatment at all: 23% of those liviing with HIV in the US vs 15% in Canada
- far fewer people on treatment but NOT fully suppressed: 11% of those liviing with HIV (US) vs just 6% in Canada
Those in the US who are diagnosed but not on treatment, OR not virally suppressed, (combined making 34% of those with HIV there) account for 63% of new transmissions in the US. The percentage of people in Canada who fit into those categories is far less than that of the US. So, we expect their impact on HIV transmissions is proportionally less as well, which means the proportion from those who are undiagnosed is also proportionaly much higher in Canada than 38%.
Taken as directed, one pill containing emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (aka Truvada and it's approved generic equivalents) for oral Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis can reduce the risk of HIV infection by up to 99%. Click here for more details about PrEP.
The HIV is Different campaign is supported by a grant from